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Title: My Life, Volume I

Author: Richard Wagner

Release Date: February, 2004  [EBook #5197]
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My Life, Volume 1

By Richard Wagner



        PART I. 1813-1842
        PART II. 1842-1850 (Dresden)


The contents of these volumes have been written down directly
from my dictation, over a period of several years, by my friend
and wife, who wished me to tell her the story of my life. It was
the desire of both of us that these details of my life should be
accessible to our family and to our sincere and trusted friends;
and we decided therefore, in order to provide against a possible
destruction of the one manuscript, to have a small number of
copies printed at our own expense. As the value of this
autobiography consists in its unadorned veracity, which, under
the circumstances, is its only justification, therefore my
statements had to be accompanied by precise names and dates;
hence there could be no question of their publication until some
time after my death, should interest in them still survive in our
descendants, and on that point I intend leaving directions in my

If, on the other hand, we do not refuse certain intimate friends
a sight of these papers now, it is that, relying on their genuine
interest in the contents, we are confident that they will not
pass on their knowledge to any who do not share their feelings in
the matter.

Richard Wagner


    Part I. 1813-1842

       Childhood and Schooldays
       Musical Studies
       Travels in Germany (First Marriage)
       Paris: 1839-42

    Part II. 1842-1850 (Dresden)

       'The Flying Dutchman'
       Liszt, Spontini, Marschner, etc.
       Franck, Schumann, Semper, Gutzkow, Auerbach
       'Lohengrin' (Libretto)
       Ninth Symphony
       Spohr, Gluck, Hiller, Devrient
       Official Position.
       Studies in Historical Literature
       'Rienzi' at Berlin
       Relations with the Management, Mother's Death, etc.
       Growing Sympathy with Political Events, Bakunin
       The May Insurrection
       Flight: Weimar, Zurich, Paris, Bordeaux, Geneva, Zurich

ILLUSTRATIONS [not shown in e-text]


       Richard Wagner in 1842, from the Portrait by E. Kietz.


       Richard Wagner about 1872 by Lenbach.

Original in the possession of Frau Cosima Wagner
These frontispieces are used by the courtesy of Mr. F. Bruckmann.




I was born at Leipzig on the 22nd of May 1813, in a room on the
second floor of the 'Red and White Lion,' and two days later was
baptized at St. Thomas's Church, and christened Wilhelm Richard.

My father, Friedrich Wagner, was at the time of my birth a clerk
in the police service at Leipzig, and hoped to get the post of
Chief Constable in that town, but he died in the October of that
same year. His death was partly due to the great exertions
imposed upon him by the stress of police work during the war
troubles and the battle of Leipzig, and partly to the fact that
he fell a victim to the nervous fever which was raging at that
time. As regards his father's position in life, I learnt later
that he had held a small civil appointment as toll collector at
the Ranstadt Gate, but had distinguished himself from those in
the same station by giving his two sons a superior education, my
father, Friedrich, studying law, and the younger son, Adolph,

My uncle subsequently exercised no small influence on my
development; we shall meet him again at a critical turning-point
in the story of my youth.

My father, whom I had lost so early, was, as I discovered
afterwards, a great lover of poetry and literature in general, and
possessed in particular an almost passionate affection for the
drama, which was at that time much in vogue among the educated
classes. My mother told me, among other things, that he took her to
Lauchstadt for the first performance of the Braut von Messina, and
that on the promenade he pointed out Schiller and Goethe to her,
and reproved her warmly for never having heard of these great men.
He is said to have been not altogether free from a gallant interest
in actresses. My mother used to complain jokingly that she often
had to keep lunch waiting for him while he was paying court to a
certain famous actress of the day [FOOTNOTE: Madame Hartwig]. When
she scolded him, he vowed that he had been delayed by papers that
had to be attended to, and as a proof of his assertion pointed to
his fingers, which were supposed to be stained with ink, but on
closer inspection were found to be quite clean. His great fondness
for the theatre was further shown by his choice of the actor,
Ludwig Geyer, as one of his intimate friends. Although his choice
of this friend was no doubt mainly due to his love for the theatre,
he at the same time introduced into his family the noblest of
benefactors; for this modest artist, prompted by a warm interest in
the lot of his friend's large family, so unexpectedly left
destitute, devoted the remainder of his life to making strenuous
efforts to maintain and educate the orphans. Even when the police
official was spending his evenings at the theatre, the worthy actor
generally filled his place in the family circle, and it seems had
frequently to appease my mother, who, rightly or wrongly,
complained of the frivolity of her husband.

How deeply the homeless artist, hard pressed by life and tossed
to and fro, longed to feel himself at home in a sympathetic
family circle, was proved by the fact that a year after his
friend's death he married his widow, and from that time forward
became a most loving father to the seven children that had been
left behind.

In this onerous undertaking he was favoured by an unexpected
improvement in his position, for he obtained a remunerative,
respectable, and permanent engagement, as a character actor, at
the newly established Court Theatre in Dresden. His talent for
painting, which had already helped him to earn a livelihood when
forced by extreme poverty to break off his university studies,
again stood him in good stead in his position at Dresden. True,
he complained even more than his critics that he had been kept
from a regular and systematic study of this art, yet his
extraordinary aptitude, for portrait painting in particular,
secured him such important commissions that he unfortunately
exhausted his strength prematurely by his twofold exertions as
painter and actor. Once, when he was invited to Munich to fulfil a
temporary engagement at the Court Theatre, he received, through the
distinguished recommendation of the Saxon Court, such pressing
commissions from the Bavarian Court for portraits of the royal
family that he thought it wise to cancel his contract altogether.
He also had a turn for poetry. Besides fragments--often in very
dainty verse--he wrote several comedies, one of which, Der
Bethlehemitische Kindermord, in rhymed Alexandrines, was often
performed; it was published and received the warmest praise from

This excellent man, under whose care our family moved to Dresden
when I was two years old, and by whom my mother had another
daughter, Cecilia, now also took my education in hand with the
greatest care and affection. He wished to adopt me altogether,
and accordingly, when I was sent to my first school, he gave me
his own name, so that till the age of fourteen I was known to my
Dresden schoolfellows as Richard Geyer; and it was not until some
years after my stepfather's death, and on my family's return to
Leipzig, the home of my own kith and kin, that I resumed the name
of Wagner.

The earliest recollections of my childhood are associated with my
stepfather, and passed from him to the theatre. I well remember
that he would have liked to see me develop a talent for painting;
and his studio, with the easel and the pictures upon it, did not
fail to impress me. I remember in particular that I tried, with a
childish love of imitation, to copy a portrait of King Frederick
Augustus of Saxony; but when this simple daubing had to give
place to a serious study of drawing, I could not stand it,
possibly because I was discouraged by the pedantic technique of
my teacher, a cousin of mine, who was rather a bore. At one time
during my early boyhood I became so weak after some childish
ailment that my mother told me later she used almost to wish me
dead, for it seemed as though I should never get well. However,
my subsequent good health apparently astonished my parents. I
afterwards learnt the noble part played by my excellent
stepfather on this occasion also; he never gave way to despair,
in spite of the cares and troubles of so large a family, but
remained patient throughout, and never lost the hope of pulling
me through safely.

My imagination at this time was deeply impressed by my
acquaintance with the theatre, with which I was brought into
contact, not only as a childish spectator from the mysterious
stagebox, with its access to the stage, and by visits to the
wardrobe with its fantastic costumes, wigs and other disguises,
but also by taking a part in the performances myself. After I had
been filled with fear by seeing my father play the villain's part
in such tragedies as Die Waise und der Morder, Die beiden
Galeerensklaven, I occasionally took part in comedy. I remember
that I appeared in Der Weinberg an der Elbe, a piece specially
written to welcome the King of Saxony on his return from
captivity, with music by the conductor, C. M. von Weber. In this
I figured in a tableau vivant as an angel, sewn up in tights with
wings on my back, in a graceful pose which I had laboriously
practised. I also remember on this occasion being given a big
iced cake, which I was assured the King had intended for me
personally. Lastly, I can recall taking a child's part in which I
had a few words to speak in Kotzebue's Menschenhass und Reue
[Footnote: 'Misanthropy and Remorse.'], which furnished me with
an excuse at school for not having learnt my lessons. I said I
had too much to do, as I had to learn by heart an important part
in Den Menschen ausser der Reihe. [Footnote: 'The Man out of the
Rank or Row.' In the German this is a simple phonetic corruption
of Kotzebue's title, which might easily occur to a child who had
only heard, and not read, that title.--EDITOR.]

On the other hand, to show how seriously my father regarded my
education, when I was six years old he took me to a clergyman in
the country at Possendorf, near Dresden, where I was to be given
a sound and healthy training with other boys of my own class. In
the evening, the vicar, whose name was Wetzel, used to tell us
the story of Robinson Crusoe, and discuss it with us in a highly
instructive manner. I was, moreover, much impressed by a
biography of Mozart which was read aloud; and the newspaper
accounts and monthly reports of the events of the Greek War of
Independence stirred my imagination deeply. My love for Greece,
which afterwards made me turn with enthusiasm to the mythology
and history of ancient Hellas, was thus the natural outcome of
the intense and painful interest I took in the events of this
period. In after years the story of the struggle of the Greeks
against the Persians always revived my impressions of this modern
revolt of Greece against the Turks.

One day, when I had been in this country home scarcely a year, a
messenger came from town to ask the vicar to take me to my
parents' house in Dresden, as my father was dying.

We did the three hours' journey on foot; and as I was very
exhausted when I arrived, I scarcely understood why my mother was
crying. The next day I was taken to my father's bedside; the
extreme weakness with which he spoke to me, combined with all the
precautions taken in the last desperate treatment of his
complaint--acute hydrothorax--made the whole scene appear like a
dream to me, and I think I was too frightened and surprised to

In the next room my mother asked me to show her what I could play
on the piano, wisely hoping to divert my father's thoughts by the
sound. I played Ueb' immer Treu und Redlichkeit, and my father
said to her, 'Is it possible he has musical talent?'

In the early hours of the next morning my mother came into the
great night nursery, and, standing by the bedside of each of us
in turn, told us, with sobs, that our father was dead, and gave
us each a message with his blessing. To me she said, 'He hoped to
make something of you.'

In the afternoon my schoolmaster, Wetzel, came to take me back to
the country. We walked the whole way to Possendorf, arriving at
nightfall. On the way I asked him many questions about the stars,
of which he gave me my first intelligent idea.

A week later my stepfather's brother arrived from Eisleben for
the funeral. He promised, as far as he was able, to support the
family, which was now once more destitute, and undertook to
provide for my future education.

I took leave of my companions and of the kind-hearted clergyman,
and it was for his funeral that I paid my next visit to
Possendorf a few years later. I did not go to the place again
till long afterwards, when I visited it on an excursion such as I
often made, far into the country, at the time when I was
conducting the orchestra in Dresden. I was much grieved not to
find the old parsonage still there, but in its place a more
pretentious modern structure, which so turned me against the
locality, that thenceforward my excursions were always made in
another direction.

This time my uncle brought me back to Dresden in the carriage. I
found my mother and sister in the deepest mourning, and remember
being received for the first time with a tenderness not usual in
our family; and I noticed that the same tenderness marked our
leave-taking, when, a few days later, my uncle took me with him
to Eisleben.

This uncle, who was a younger brother of my stepfather, had
settled there as a goldsmith, and Julius, one of my elder
brothers, had already been apprenticed to him. Our old
grandmother also lived with this bachelor son, and as it was
evident that she could not live long, she was not informed of the
death of her eldest son, which I, too, was bidden to keep to
myself. The servant carefully removed the crape from my coat,
telling me she would keep it until my grandmother died, which was
likely to be soon.

I was now often called upon to tell her about my father, and it
was no great difficulty for me to keep the secret of his death,
as I had scarcely realised it myself. She lived in a dark back
room looking out upon a narrow courtyard, and took a great
delight in watching the robins that fluttered freely about her,
and for which she always kept fresh green boughs by the stove.
When some of these robins were killed by the cat, I managed to
catch others for her in the neighbourhood, which pleased her very
much, and, in return, she kept me tidy and clean. Her death, as
had been expected, took place before long, and the crape that had
been put away was now openly worn in Eisleben.

The back room, with its robins and green branches, now knew me no
more, but I soon made myself at home with a soap-boiler's family,
to whom the house belonged, and became popular with them on
account of the stories I told them.

I was sent to a private school kept by a man called Weiss, who
left an impression of gravity and dignity upon my mind.

Towards the end of the fifties I was greatly moved at reading in
a musical paper the account of a concert at Eisleben, consisting
of parts of Tannhauser, at which my former master, who had not
forgotten his young pupil, had been present.

The little old town with Luther's house, and the numberless
memorials it contained of his stay there, has often, in later
days, come back to me in dreams. I have always wished to revisit
it and verify the clearness of my recollections, but, strange to
say, it has never been my fate to do so. We lived in the market-
place, where I was often entertained by strange sights, such, for
instance, as performances by a troupe of acrobats, in which a man
walked a rope stretched from tower to tower across the square, an
achievement which long inspired me with a passion for such feats
of daring. Indeed, I got so far as to walk a rope fairly easily
myself with the help of a balancing-pole. I had made the rope out
of cords twisted together and stretched across the courtyard, and
even now I still feel a desire to gratify my acrobatic instincts.
The thing that attracted me most, however, was the brass band of
a Hussar regiment quartered at Eisleben. It often played a
certain piece which had just come out, and which was making a
great sensation, I mean the 'Huntsmen's Chorus' out of the
Freischutz, that had been recently performed at the Opera in
Berlin. My uncle and brother asked me eagerly about its composer,
Weber, whom I must have seen at my parents' house in Dresden,
when he was conductor of the orchestra there.

About the same time the Jungfernkranz was zealously played and
sung by some friends who lived near us. These two pieces cured me
of my weakness for the 'Ypsilanti' Waltz, which till that time I
had regarded as the most wonderful of compositions.

I have recollections of frequent tussles with the town boys, who
were constantly mocking at me for my 'square' cap; and I
remember, too, that I was very fond of rambles of adventure among
the rocky banks of the Unstrut.

My uncle's marriage late in life, and the starting of his new
home, brought about a marked alteration in his relations to my

After a lapse of a year I was taken by him to Leipzig, and handed
over for some days to the Wagners, my own father's relatives,
consisting of my uncle Adolph and his sister Friederike Wagner.
This extraordinarily interesting man, whose influence afterwards
became ever more stimulating to me, now for the first time
brought himself and his singular environment into my life.

He and my aunt were very close friends of Jeannette Thome, a
queer old maid who shared with them a large house in the market-
place, in which, if I am not mistaken, the Electoral family of
Saxony had, ever since the days of Augustus the Strong, hired and
furnished the two principal storeys for their own use whenever
they were in Leipzig.

So far as I know, Jeannette Thome really owned the second storey,
of which she inhabited only a modest apartment looking out on the
courtyard. As, however, the King merely occupied the hired rooms
for a few days in the year, Jeannette and her circle generally
made use of his splendid apartments, and one of these staterooms
was made into a bedroom for me.

The decorations and fittings of these rooms also dated from the
days of Augustus the Strong. They were luxurious with heavy silk
and rich rococo furniture, all of which were much soiled with
age. As a matter of fact, I was delighted by these large strange
rooms, looking out upon the bustling Leipzig market-place, where
I loved above all to watch the students in the crowd making their
way along in their old-fashioned 'Club' attire, and filling up
the whole width of the street.

There was only one portion of the decorations of the rooms that I
thoroughly disliked, and this consisted of the various portraits,
but particularly those of high-born dames in hooped petticoats,
with youthful faces and powdered hair. These appeared to me
exactly like ghosts, who, when I was alone in the room, seemed to
come back to life, and filled me with the most abject fear. To
sleep alone in this distant chamber, in that old-fashioned bed of
state, beneath those unearthly pictures, was a constant terror to
me. It is true I tried to hide my fear from my aunt when she
lighted me to bed in the evening with her candle, but never a
night passed in which I was not a prey to the most horrible
ghostly visions, my dread of which would leave me in a bath of

The personality of the three chief occupants of this storey was
admirably adapted to materialise the ghostly impressions of the
house into a reality that resembled some strange fairy-tale.

Jeannette Thome was very small and stout; she wore a fair Titus
wig, and seemed to hug to herself the consciousness of vanished
beauty. My aunt, her faithful friend and guardian, who was also
an old maid, was remarkable for the height and extreme leanness
of her person. The oddity of her otherwise very pleasant face was
increased by an exceedingly pointed chin.

My uncle Adolph had chosen as his permanent study a dark room in
the courtyard. There it was that I saw him for the first time,
surrounded by a great wilderness of books, and attired in an
unpretentious indoor costume, the most striking feature of which
was a tall, pointed felt cap, such as I had seen worn by the
clown who belonged to the troupe of rope-dancers at Eisleben. A
great love of independence had driven him to this strange
retreat. He had been originally destined for the Church, but he
soon gave that up, in order to devote himself entirely to
philological studies. But as he had the greatest dislike of
acting as a professor and teacher in a regular post, he soon
tried to make a meagre livelihood by literary work. He had
certain social gifts, and especially a fine tenor voice, and
appears in his youth to have been welcome as a man of letters
among a fairly wide circle of friends at Leipzig.

On a trip to Jena, during which he and a companion seem to have
found their way into various musical and oratorical associations,
he paid a visit to Schiller. With this object in view, he had
come armed with a request from the management of the Leipzig
Theatre, who wanted to secure the rights of Wallenstein, which
was just finished. He told me later of the magic impression made
upon him by Schiller, with his tall slight figure and
irresistibly attractive blue eyes. His only complaint was that,
owing to a well-meant trick played on him by his friend, he had
been placed in a most trying position; for the latter had managed
to send Schiller a small volume of Adolph Wagner's poems in

The young poet was much embarrassed to hear Schiller address him
in flattering terms on the subject of his poetry, but was
convinced that the great man was merely encouraging him out of
kindness. Afterwards he devoted himself entirely to philological
studios--one of his best-known publications in that department
being his Parnasso Italiano, which he dedicated to Goethe in an
Italian poem. True, I have heard experts say that the latter was
written in unusually pompous Italian; but Goethe sent him a
letter full of praise, as well as a silver cup from his own
household plate. The impression that I, as a boy of eight,
conceived of Adolph Wagner, amid the surroundings of his own
home, was that he was a peculiarly puzzling character.

I soon had to leave the influence of this environment and was
brought back to my people at Dresden. Meanwhile my family, under
the guidance of my bereaved mother, had been obliged to settle
down as well as they could under the circumstances. My eldest
brother Albert, who originally intended to study medicine, had,
upon the advice of Weber, who had much admired his beautiful
tenor voice, started his theatrical career in Breslau. My second
sister Louisa soon followed his example, and became an actress.
My eldest sister Rosalie had obtained an excellent engagement at
the Dresden Court Theatre, and the younger members of the family
all looked up to her; for she was now the main support of our
poor sorrowing mother. My family still occupied the same
comfortable home which my father had made for them. Some of the
spare rooms were occasionally let to strangers, and Spohr was
among those who at one time lodged with us. Thanks to her great
energy, and to help received from various sources (among which
the continued generosity of the Court, out of respect to the
memory of my late stepfather, must not be forgotten), my mother
managed so well in making both ends meet, that even my education
did not suffer.

After it had been decided that my sister Clara, owing to her
exceedingly beautiful voice, should also go on the stage, my
mother took the greatest care to prevent me from developing any
taste whatever for the theatre. She never ceased to reproach
herself for having consented to the theatrical career of my
eldest brother, and as my second brother showed no greater
talents than those which were useful to him as a goldsmith, it
was now her chief desire to see some progress made towards the
fulfilment of the hopes and wishes of my step-father, 'who hoped
to make something of me.' On the completion of my eighth year I
was sent to the Kreuz Grammar School in Dresden, where it was
hoped I would study! There I was placed at the bottom of the
lowest class, and started my education under the most unassuming

My mother noted with much interest the slightest signs I might
show of a growing love and ability for my work. She herself,
though not highly educated, always created a lasting impression
on all who really learnt to know her, and displayed a peculiar
combination of practical domestic efficiency and keen
intellectual animation. She never gave one of her children any
definite information concerning her antecedents. She came from
Weissenfels, and admitted that her parents had been bakers
[FOOTNOTE: According to more recent information--mill owners]
there. Even in regard to her maiden name she always spoke with
some embarrassment, and intimated that it was 'Perthes,' though,
as we afterwards ascertained, it was in reality 'Bertz.' Strange
to say, she had been placed in a high-class boarding-school in
Leipzig, where she had enjoyed the advantage of the care and
interest of one of 'her father's influential friends,' to whom
she afterwards referred as being a Weimar prince who had been
very kind to her family in Weissenfels. Her education in that
establishment seems to have been interrupted on account of the
sudden death of this 'friend.' She became acquainted with my
father at a very early age, and married him in the first bloom of
her youth, he also being very young, though he already held an
appointment. Her chief characteristics seem to have been a keen
sense of humour and an amiable temper, so we need not suppose
that it was merely a sense of duty towards the family of a
departed comrade that afterwards induced the admirable Ludwig
Geyer to enter into matrimony with her when she was no longer
youthful, but rather that he was impelled to that step by a
sincere and warm regard for the widow of his friend. A portrait
of her, painted by Geyer during the lifetime of my father, gives
one a very favourable impression of what she must have been. Even
from the time when my recollection of her is quite distinct, she
always had to wear a cap owing to some slight affection of the
head, so that I have no recollection of her as a young and pretty
mother. Her trying position at the head of a numerous family (of
which I was the seventh surviving member), the difficulty of
obtaining the wherewithal to rear them, and of keeping up
appearances on very limited resources, did not conduce to evolve
that tender sweetness and solicitude which are usually associated
with motherhood. I hardly ever recollect her having fondled me.
Indeed, demonstrations of affection were not common in our
family, although a certain impetuous, almost passionate and
boisterous manner always characterised our dealings. This being
so, it naturally seemed to me quite a great event when one night
I, fretful with sleepiness, looked up at her with tearful eyes as
she was taking me to bed, and saw her gaze back at me proudly and
fondly, and speak of me to a visitor then present with a certain
amount of tenderness.

What struck me more particularly about her was the strange
enthusiasm and almost pathetic manner with which she spoke of the
great and of the beautiful in Art. Under this heading, however,
she would never have let me suppose that she included dramatic
art, but only Poetry, Music, and Painting. Consequently, she
often even threatened me with her curse should I ever express a
desire to go on the stage. Moreover, she was very religiously
inclined. With intense fervour she would often give us long
sermons about God and the divine quality in man, during which,
now and again, suddenly lowering her voice in a rather funny way,
she would interrupt herself in order to rebuke one of us. After
the death of our stepfather she used to assemble us all round her
bed every morning, when one of us would read out a hymn or a part
of the Church service from the prayer-book before she took her
coffee. Sometimes the choice of the part to be read was hardly
appropriate, as, for instance, when my sister Clara on one
occasion thoughtlessly read the 'Prayer to be said in time of
War,' and delivered it with so much expression that my mother
interrupted her, saying: 'Oh, stop! Good gracious me! Things are
not quite so bad as that. There's no war on at present!'

In spite of our limited means we had lively and--as they appeared
to my boyish imagination--even brilliant evening parties
sometimes. After the death of my stepfather, who, thanks to his
success as a portrait painter, in the later years of his life had
raised his income to what for those days was a really decent
total, many agreeable acquaintances of very good social position
whom he had made during this flourishing period still remained on
friendly terms with us, and would occasionally join us at our
evening gatherings. Amongst those who came were the members of
the Court Theatre, who at that time gave very charming and highly
entertaining parties of their own, which, on my return to Dresden
later on, I found had been altogether given up.

Very delightful, too, were the picnics arranged between us and
our friends at some of the beautiful spots around Dresden, for
these excursions were always brightened by a certain artistic
spirit and general good cheer. I remember one such outing we
arranged to Loschwitz, where we made a kind of gypsy camp, in
which Carl Maria von Weber played his part in the character of
cook. At home we also had some music. My sister Rosalie played
the piano, and Clara was beginning to sing. Of the various
theatrical performances we organised in those early days, often
after elaborate preparation, with the view of amusing ourselves
on the birthdays of our elders, I can hardly remember one, save a
parody on the romantic play of Sappho, by Grillparzer, in which I
took part as one of the singers in the crowd that preceded
Phaon's triumphal car. I endeavoured to revive these memories by
means of a fine puppet show, which I found among the effects of
my late stepfather, and for which he himself had painted some
beautiful scenery. It was my intention to surprise my people by
means of a brilliant performance on this little stage. After I
had very clumsily made several puppets, and had provided them
with a scanty wardrobe made from cuttings of material purloined
from my sisters, I started to compose a chivalric drama, in which
I proposed to rehearse my puppets. When I had drafted the first
scene, my sisters happened to discover the MS. and literally
laughed it to scorn, and, to my great annoyance, for a long time
afterwards they chaffed me by repeating one particular sentence
which I had put into the mouth of the heroine, and which was--Ich
hore schon den Ritter trapsen ('I hear his knightly footsteps
falling'). I now returned with renewed ardour to the theatre,
with which, even at this time, my family was in close touch. Den
Freischutz in particular appealed very strongly to my
imagination, mainly on account of its ghostly theme. The emotions
of terror and the dread of ghosts formed quite an important
factor in the development of my mind. From my earliest childhood
certain mysterious and uncanny things exercised an enormous
influence over me. If I were left alone in a room for long, I
remember that, when gazing at lifeless objects such as pieces of
furniture, and concentrating my attention upon them, I would
suddenly shriek out with fright, because they seemed to me alive.
Even during the latest years of my boyhood, not a night passed
without my waking out of some ghostly dream and uttering the most
frightful shrieks, which subsided only at the sound of some human
voice. The most severe rebuke or even chastisement seemed to me
at those times no more than a blessed release. None of my
brothers or sisters would sleep anywhere near me. They put me to
sleep as far as possible away from the others, without thinking
that my cries for help would only be louder and longer; but in
the end they got used even to this nightly disturbance.

In connection with this childish terror, what attracted me so
strongly to the theatre--by which I mean also the stage, the
rooms behind the scenes, and the dressing-rooms--was not so much
the desire for entertainment and amusement such as that which
impels the present-day theatre-goers, but the fascinating
pleasure of finding myself in an entirely different atmosphere,
in a world that was purely fantastic and often gruesomely
attractive. Thus to me a scene, even a wing, representing a bush,
or some costume or characteristic part of it, seemed to come from
another world, to be in some way as attractive as an apparition,
and I felt that contact with it might serve as a lever to lift me
from the dull reality of daily routine to that delightful region
of spirits. Everything connected with a theatrical performance
had for me the charm of mystery, it both bewitched and fascinated
me, and while I was trying, with the help of a few playmates, to
imitate the performance of Der Freischutz, and to devote myself
energetically to reproducing the needful costumes and masks in my
grotesque style of painting, the more elegant contents of my
sisters' wardrobes, in the beautifying of which I had often seen
the family occupied, exercised a subtle charm over my
imagination; nay, my heart would beat madly at the very touch of
one of their dresses.

In spite of the fact that, as I already mentioned, our family was
not given to outward manifestations of affection, yet the fact
that I was brought up entirely among feminine surroundings must
necessarily have influenced the development of the sensitive side
of my nature. Perhaps it was precisely because my immediate
circle was generally rough and impetuous, that the opposite
characteristics of womanhood, especially such as were connected
with the imaginary world of the theatre, created a feeling of
such tender longing in me.

Luckily these fantastic humours, merging from the gruesome into
the mawkish, were counteracted and balanced by more serious
influences undergone at school at the hands of my teachers and
schoolfellows. Even there, it was chiefly the weird that aroused
my keenest interest. I can hardly judge whether I had what would
be called a good head for study. I think that, in general, what I
really liked I was soon able to grasp without much effort,
whereas I hardly exerted myself at all in the study of subjects
that were uncongenial. This characteristic was most marked in
regard to arithmetic and, later on, mathematics. In neither of
these subjects did I ever succeed in bringing my mind seriously
to bear upon the tasks that were set me. In the matter of the
Classics, too, I paid only just as much attention as was
absolutely necessary to enable me to get a grasp of them; for I
was stimulated by the desire to reproduce them to myself
dramatically. In this way Greek particularly attracted me,
because the stories from Greek mythology so seized upon my fancy
that I tried to imagine their heroes as speaking to me in their
native tongue, so as to satisfy my longing for complete
familiarity with them. In these circumstances it will be readily
understood that the grammar of the language seemed to me merely a
tiresome obstacle, and by no means in itself an interesting
branch of knowledge.

The fact that my study of languages was never very thorough,
perhaps best explains the fact that I was afterwards so ready to
cease troubling about them altogether. Not until much later did
this study really begin to interest me again, and that was only
when I learnt to understand its physiological and philosophical
side, as it was revealed to our modern Germanists by the pioneer
work of Jakob Grimm. Then, when it was too late to apply myself
thoroughly to a study which at last I had learned to appreciate,
I regretted that this newer conception of the study of languages
had not yet found acceptance in our colleges when I was younger.

Nevertheless, by my successes in philological work I managed to
attract the attention of a young teacher at the Kreuz Grammar
School, a Master of Arts named Sillig, who proved very helpful to
me. He often permitted me to visit him and show him my work,
consisting of metric translations and a few original poems, and
he always seemed very pleased with my efforts in recitation. What
he thought of me may best be judged perhaps from the fact that he
made me, as a boy of about twelve, recite not only 'Hector's
Farewell' from the Iliad, but even Hamlet's celebrated monologue.
On one occasion, when I was in the fourth form of the school, one
of my schoolfellows, a boy named Starke, suddenly fell dead, and
the tragic event aroused so much sympathy, that not only did the
whole school attend the funeral, but the headmaster also ordered
that a poem should be written in commemoration of the ceremony,
and that this poem should be published. Of the various poems
submitted, among which there was one by myself, prepared very
hurriedly, none seemed to the master worthy of the honour which
he had promised, and he therefore announced his intention of
substituting one of his own speeches in the place of our rejected
attempts. Much distressed by this decision, I quickly sought out
Professor Sillig, with the view of urging him to intervene on
behalf of my poem. We thereupon went through it together. Its
well-constructed and well-rhymed verses, written in stanzas of
eight lines, determined him to revise the whole of it carefully.
Much of its imagery was bombastic, and far beyond the conception
of a boy of my age. I recollect that in one part I had drawn
extensively from the monologue in Addison's Cato, spoken by Cato
just before his suicide. I had met with this passage in an
English grammar, and it had made a deep impression upon me. The
words: 'The stars shall fade away, the sun himself grow dim with
age, and nature sink in years,' which, at all events, were a
direct plagiarism, made Sillig laugh--a thing at which I was a
little offended. However, I felt very grateful to him, for,
thanks to the care and rapidity with which he cleared my poem of
these extravagances, it was eventually accepted by the
headmaster, printed, and widely circulated.

The effect of this success was extraordinary, both on my
schoolfellows and on my own family. My mother devoutly folded her
hands in thankfulness, and in my own mind my vocation seemed
quite a settled thing. It was clear, beyond the possibility of a
doubt, that I was destined to be a poet. Professor Sillig wished
me to compose a grand epic, and suggested as a subject 'The
Battle of Parnassus,' as described by Pausanias. His reasons for
this choice were based upon the legend related by Pausanias,
viz., that in the second century B.C. the Muses from Parnassus
aided the combined Greek armies against the destructive invasion
of the Gauls by provoking a panic among the latter. I actually
began my heroic poem in hexameter verse, but could not get
through the first canto.

Not being far enough advanced in the language to understand the
Greek tragedies thoroughly in the original, my own attempts to
construct a tragedy in the Greek form were greatly influenced by
the fact that quite by accident I came across August Apel's
clever imitation of this style in his striking poems 'Polyidos'
and 'Aitolier.' For my theme I selected the death of Ulysses,
from a fable of Hyginus, according to which the aged hero is
killed by his son, the offspring of his union with Calypso. But I
did not get very far with this work either, before I gave it up.

My mind became so bent upon this sort of thing, that duller
studies naturally ceased to interest me. The mythology, legends,
and, at last, the history of Greece alone attracted me.

I was fond of life, merry with my companions, and always ready
for a joke or an adventure. Moreover, I was constantly forming
friendships, almost passionate in their ardour, with one or the
other of my comrades, and in choosing my associates I was mainly
influenced by the extent to which my new acquaintance appealed to
my eccentric imagination. At one time it would be poetising and
versifying that decided my choice of a friend; at another,
theatrical enterprises, while now and then it would be a longing
for rambling and mischief.

Furthermore, when I reached my thirteenth year, a great change
came over our family affairs. My sister Rosalie, who had become
the chief support of our household, obtained an advantageous
engagement at the theatre in Prague, whither mother and children
removed in 1820, thus giving up the Dresden home altogether. I
was left behind in Dresden, so that I might continue to attend
the Kreuz Grammar School until I was ready to go up to the
university. I was therefore sent to board and lodge with a family
named Bohme, whose sons I had known at school, and in whose house
I already felt quite at home. With my residence in this somewhat
rough, poor, and not particularly well-conducted family, my years
of dissipation began. I no longer enjoyed the quiet retirement
necessary for work, nor the gentle, spiritual influence of my
sisters' companionship. On the contrary, I was plunged into a
busy, restless life, full of rough horseplay and of quarrels.
Nevertheless, it was there that I began to experience the
influence of the gentler sex in a manner hitherto unknown to me,
as the grown-up daughters of the family and their friends often
filled the scanty and narrow rooms of the house. Indeed, my first
recollections of boyish love date from this period. I remember a
very beautiful young girl, whose name, if I am not mistaken, was
Amalie Hoffmann, coming to call at the house one Sunday. She was
charmingly dressed, and her appearance as she came into the room
literally struck me dumb with amazement. On other occasions I
recollect pretending to be too helplessly sleepy to move, so that
I might be carried up to bed by the girls, that being, as they
thought, the only remedy for my condition. And I repeated this,
because I found, to my surprise, that their attention under these
circumstances brought me into closer and more gratifying
proximity with them.

The most important event during this year of separation from my
family was, however, a short visit I paid to them in Prague. In
the middle of the winter my mother came to Dresden, and took me
hack with her to Prague for a week. Her way of travelling was
quite unique. To the end of her days she preferred the more
dangerous mode of travelling in a hackney carriage to the quicker
journey by mail-coach, so that we spent three whole days in the
bitter cold on the road from Dresden to Prague. The journey over
the Bohemian mountains often seemed to be beset with the greatest
dangers, but happily we survived our thrilling adventures and at
last arrived in Prague, where I was suddenly plunged into
entirely new surroundings.

For a long time the thought of leaving Saxony on another visit to
Bohemia, and especially Prague, had had quite a romantic
attraction for me. The foreign nationality, the broken German of
the people, the peculiar headgear of the women, the native wines,
the harp-girls and musicians, and finally, the ever present signs
of Catholicism, its numerous chapels and shrines, all produced on
me a strangely exhilarating impression. This was probably due to
my craze for everything theatrical and spectacular, as
distinguished from simple bourgeois customs. Above all, the
antique splendour and beauty of the incomparable city of Prague
became indelibly stamped on my fancy. Even in my own family
surroundings I found attractions to which I had hitherto been a
stranger. For instance, my sister Ottilie, only two years older
than myself, had won the devoted friendship of a noble family,
that of Count Pachta, two of whose daughters, Jenny and Auguste,
who had long been famed as the leading beauties of Prague, had
become fondly attached to her. To me, such people and such a
connection were something quite novel and enchanting. Besides
these, certain beaux esprits of Prague, among them W. Marsano, a
strikingly handsome and charming man, were frequent visitors at
our house. They often earnestly discussed the tales of Hoffmann,
which at that date were comparatively new, and had created some
sensation. It was now that I made my first though rather
superficial acquaintance with this romantic visionary, and so
received a stimulus which influenced me for many years even to
the point of infatuation, and gave me very peculiar ideas of the

In the following spring, 1827, I repeated this journey from
Dresden to Prague, but this time on foot, and accompanied by my
friend Rudolf Bohme. Our tour was full of adventure. We got to
within an hour of Teplitz the first night, and next day we had to
get a lift in a wagon, as we had walked our feet sore; yet this
only took us as far as Lowositz, as our funds had quite run out.
Under a scorching sun, hungry and half-fainting, we wandered
along bypaths through absolutely unknown country, until at
sundown we happened to reach the main road just as an elegant
travelling coach came in sight. I humbled my pride so far as to
pretend I was a travelling journeyman, and begged the
distinguished travellers for alms, while my friend timidly hid
himself in the ditch by the roadside. Luckily we decided to seek
shelter for the night in an inn, where we took counsel whether we
should spend the alms just received on a supper or a bed. We
decided for the supper, proposing to spend the night under the
open sky. While we were refreshing ourselves, a strange-looking
wayfarer entered. He wore a black velvet skull-cap, to which a
metal lyre was attached like a cockade, and on his back he bore a
harp. Very cheerfully he set down his instrument, made himself
comfortable, and called for a good meal. He intended to stay the
night, and to continue his way next day to Prague, where he
lived, and whither he was returning from Hanover.

My good spirits and courage were stimulated by the jovial manners
of this merry fellow, who constantly repeated his favourite
motto, 'non plus ultra.' We soon struck up an acquaintance, and
in return for my confidence, the strolling player's attitude to
me was one of almost touching sympathy. It was agreed that we
should continue our journey together next day on foot. He lent me
two twenty-kreutzer pieces (about ninepence), and allowed me to
write my Prague address in his pocket-book. I was highly
delighted at this personal success. My harpist grew extravagantly
merry; a good deal of Czernosek wine was drunk; he sang and
played on his harp like a madman, continually reiterating his
'non plus ultra' till at last, overcome with wine, he fell down
on the straw, which had been spread out on the floor for our
common bed. When the sun once more peeped in, we could not rouse
him, and we had to make up our minds to set off in the freshness
of the early morning without him, feeling convinced that the
sturdy fellow would overtake us during the day. But it was in
vain that we looked out for him on the road and during our
subsequent stay in Prague. Indeed, it was not until several weeks
later that the extraordinary fellow turned up at my mother's, not
so much to collect payment of his loan, as to inquire about the
welfare of the young friend to whom that loan had been made.

The remainder of our journey was very fatiguing, and the joy I
felt when I at last beheld Prague from the summit of a hill, at
about an hour's distance, simply beggars description. Approaching
the suburbs, we were for the second time met by a splendid
carriage, from which my sister Ottilie's two lovely friends
called out to me in astonishment. They had recognised me
immediately, in spite of my terribly sunburnt face, blue linen
blouse, and bright red cotton cap. Overwhelmed with shame, and
with my heart beating like mad, I could hardly utter a word, and
hurried away to my mother's to attend at once to the restoration
of my sunburnt complexion. To this task I devoted two whole days,
during which I swathed my face in parsley poultices; and not till
then did I seek the pleasures of society. When, on the return
journey, I looked back once more on Prague from the same hilltop,
I burst into tears, flung myself on the earth, and for a long
time could not be induced by my astonished companion to pursue
the journey. I was downcast for the rest of the way, and we
arrived home in Dresden without any further adventures.

During the same year I again gratified my fancy for long
excursions on foot by joining a numerous company of grammar
school boys, consisting of pupils of several classes and of
various ages, who had decided to spend their summer holidays in a
tour to Leipzig. This journey also stands out among the memories
of my youth, by reason of the strong impressions it left behind.
The characteristic feature of our party was that we all aped the
student, by behaving and dressing extravagantly in the most
approved student fashion. After going as far as Meissen on the
market-boat, our path lay off the main road, through villages
with which I was as yet unfamiliar. We spent the night in the
vast barn of a village inn, and our adventures were of the
wildest description. There we saw a large marionette show, with
almost life-sized figures. Our entire party settled themselves in
the auditorium, where their presence was a source of some anxiety
to the managers, who had only reckoned on an audience of
peasants. Genovefa was the play given. The ceaseless silly jests,
and constant interpolations and jeering interruptions, in which
our corps of embryo-students indulged, finally aroused the anger
even of the peasants, who had come prepared to weep. I believe I
was the only one of our party who was pained by these
impertinences, and in spite of involuntary laughter at some of my
comrades' jokes, I not only defended the play itself, but also
its original, simple-minded audience. A popular catch-phrase
which occurred in the piece has ever since remained stamped on my
memory. 'Golo' instructs the inevitable Kaspar that, when the
Count Palatine returns home, he must 'tickle him behind, so that
he should feel it in front' (hinten zu kitzeln, dass er es vorne
fuhle). Kaspar conveys Golo's order verbatim to the Count, and
the latter reproaches the unmasked rogue in the following terms,
uttered with the greatest pathos: 'O Golo, Golo! thou hast told
Kaspar to tickle me behind, so that I shall feel it in front!'

From Grimma our party rode into Leipzig in open carriages, but
not until we had first carefully removed all the outward emblems
of the undergraduate, lest the local students we were likely to
meet might make us rue our presumption.

Since my first visit, when I was eight years old, I had only once
returned to Leipzig, and then for a very brief stay, and under
circumstances very similar to those of the earlier visit. I now
renewed my fantastic impressions of the Thome house, but this
time, owing to my more advanced education, I looked forward to
more intelligent intercourse with my uncle Adolph. An opening for
this was soon provided by my joyous astonishment on learning that
a bookcase in the large anteroom, containing a goodly collection
of books, was my property, having been left me by my father. I
went through the books with my uncle, selected at once a number
of Latin authors in the handsome Zweibruck edition, along with
sundry attractive looking works of poetry and belles-lettres, and
arranged for them to be sent to Dresden. During this visit I was
very much interested in the life of the students. In addition to
my impressions of the theatre and of Prague, now came those of
the so-called swaggering undergraduate. A great change had taken
place in this class. When, as a lad of eight, I had my first
glimpse of students, their long hair, their old German costume
with the black velvet skull-cap and the shirt collar turned back
from the bare neck, had quite taken my fancy. But since that time
the old student 'associations' which affected this fashion had
disappeared in the face of police prosecutions. On the other
hand, the national student clubs, no less peculiar to Germans,
had become conspicuous. These clubs adopted, more or less, the
fashion of the day, but with some little exaggeration. Albeit,
their dress was clearly distinguishable from that of other
classes, owing to its picturesqueness, and especially its display
of the various club-colours. The 'Comment,' that compendium of
pedantic rules of conduct for the preservation of a defiant and
exclusive esprit de corps, as opposed to the bourgeois classes,
had its fantastic side, just as the most philistine peculiarities
of the Germans have, if you probe them deeply enough. To me it
represented the idea of emancipation from the yoke of school and
family. The longing to become a student coincided unfortunately
with my growing dislike for drier studies and with my ever-
increasing fondness for cultivating romantic poetry. The results
of this soon showed themselves in my resolute attempts to make a

At the time of my confirmation, at Easter, 1827, I had
considerable doubt about this ceremony, and I already felt a
serious falling off of my reverence for religious observances.
The boy who, not many years before, had gazed with agonised
sympathy on the altarpiece in the Kreuz Kirche (Church of the
Holy Cross), and had yearned with ecstatic fervour to hang upon
the Cross in place of the Saviour, had now so far lost his
veneration for the clergyman, whose preparatory confirmation
classes he attended, as to be quite ready to make fun of him, and
even to join with his comrades in withholding part of his class
fees, and spending the money in sweets. How matters stood with me
spiritually was revealed to me, almost to my horror, at the
Communion service, when I walked in procession with my fellow-
communicants to the altar to the sound of organ and choir. The
shudder with which I received the Bread and Wine was so
ineffaceably stamped on my memory, that I never again partook of
the Communion, lest I should do so with levity. To avoid this was
all the easier for me, seeing that among Protestants such
participation is not compulsory.

I soon, however, seized, or rather created, an opportunity of
forcing a breach with the Kreuz Grammar School, and thus
compelled my family to let me go to Leipzig. In self-defence
against what I considered an unjust punishment with which I was
threatened by the assistant headmaster, Baumgarten-Crusius, for
whom I otherwise had great respect, I asked to be discharged
immediately from the school on the ground of sudden summons to
join my family in Leipzig. I had already left the Bohme household
three months before, and now lived alone in a small garret, where
I was waited on by the widow of a court plate-washer, who at
every meal served up the familiar thin Saxon coffee as almost my
sole nourishment. In this attic I did little else but write
verses. Here, too, I formed the first outlines of that stupendous
tragedy which afterwards filled my family with such
consternation. The irregular habits I acquired through this
premature domestic independence induced my anxious mother to
consent very readily to my removal to Leipzig, the more so as a
part of our scattered family had already migrated there.

My longing for Leipzig, originally aroused by the fantastic
impressions I had gained there, and later by my enthusiasm for a
student's life, had recently been still further stimulated. I had
seen scarcely anything of my sister Louisa, at that time a girl
of about twenty-two, as she had gone to the theatre of Breslau
shortly after our stepfather's death. Quite recently she had been
in Dresden for a few days on her way to Leipzig, having accepted
an engagement at the theatre there. This meeting with my almost
unknown sister, her hearty manifestations of joy at seeing me
again, as well as her sprightly, merry disposition, quite won my
heart. To live with her seemed an alluring prospect, especially
as my mother and Ottilie had joined her for a while. For the
first time a sister had treated me with some tenderness. When at
last I reached Leipzig at Christmas in the same year (1827), and
there found my mother with Ottilie and Cecilia (my half-sister),
I fancied myself in heaven. Great changes, however, had already
taken place. Louisa was betrothed to a respected and well-to-do
bookseller, Friedrich Brockhaus. This gathering together of the
relatives of the penniless bride-elect did not seem to trouble
her remarkably kind-hearted fiance. But my sister may have become
uneasy on the subject, for she soon gave me to understand that
she was not taking it quite in good part. Her desire to secure an
entree into the higher social circles of bourgeois life naturally
produced a marked change in her manner, at one time so full of
fun, and of this I gradually became so keenly sensible that
finally we were estranged for a time. Moreover, I unfortunately
gave her good cause to reprove my conduct. After I got to Leipzig
I quite gave up my studies and all regular school work, probably
owing to the arbitrary and pedantic system in vogue at the school

In Leipzig there were two higher-class schools, one called St.
Thomas's School, and the other, and the more modern, St.
Nicholas's School. The latter at that time enjoyed a better
reputation than the former; so there I had to go. But the council
of teachers before whom I appeared for my entrance examination at
the New Year (1828) thought fit to maintain the dignity of their
school by placing me for a time in the upper third form, whereas
at the Kreuz Grammar School in Dresden I had been in the second
form. My disgust at having to lay aside my Homer--from which I
had already made written translations of twelve songs--and take
up the lighter Greek prose writers was indescribable. It hurt my
feelings so deeply, and so influenced my behaviour, that I never
made a friend of any teacher in the school. The unsympathetic
treatment I met with made me all the more obstinate, and various
other circumstances in my position only added to this feeling.
While student life, as I saw it day by day, inspired me ever more
and more with its rebellious spirit, I unexpectedly met with
another cause for despising the dry monotony of school regime. I
refer to the influence of my uncle, Adolph Wagner, which, though
he was long unconscious of it, went a long way towards moulding
the growing stripling that I then was.

The fact that my romantic tastes were not based solely on a
tendency to superficial amusement was shown by my ardent
attachment to this learned relative. In his manner and
conversation he was certainly very attractive; the many-sidedness
of his knowledge, which embraced not only philology but also
philosophy and general poetic literature, rendered intercourse
with him a most entertaining pastime, as all those who knew him
used to admit. On the other hand, the fact that he was denied the
gift of writing with equal charm, or clearness, was a singular
defect which seriously lessened his influence upon the literary
world, and, in fact, often made him appear ridiculous, as in a
written argument he would perpetrate the most pompous and
involved sentences. This weakness could not have alarmed me,
because in the hazy period of my youth the more incomprehensible
any literary extravagance was, the more I admired it; besides
which, I had more experience of his conversation than of his
writings. He also seemed to find pleasure in associating with the
lad who could listen with so much heart and soul. Yet
unfortunately, possibly in the fervour of his discourses, of
which he was not a little proud, he forgot that their substance,
as well as their form, was far above my youthful powers of
comprehension. I called daily to accompany him on his
constitutional walk beyond the city gates, and I shrewdly suspect
that we often provoked the smiles of those passers-by who
overheard the profound and often earnest discussions between us.
The subjects generally ranged over everything serious or sublime
throughout the whole realm of knowledge. I took the most
enthusiastic interest in his copious library, and tasted eagerly
of almost all branches of literature, without really grounding
myself in any one of them.

My uncle was delighted to find in me a very willing listener to
his recital of classic tragedies. He had made a translation of
Oedipus, and, according to his intimate friend Tieck, justly
flattered himself on being an excellent reader.

I remember once, when he was sitting at his desk reading out a
Greek tragedy to me, it did not annoy him when I fell fast
asleep, and he afterwards pretended he had not noticed it. I was
also induced to spend my evenings with him, owing to the friendly
and genial hospitality his wife showed me. A very great change
had come over my uncle's life since my first acquaintance with
him at Jeannette Thome's. The home which he, together with his
sister Friederike, had found in his friend's house seemed, as
time went on, to have brought in its train duties that were
irksome. As his literary work assured him a modest income, he
eventually deemed it more in accordance with his dignity to make
a home of his own. A friend of his, of the same age as himself,
the sister of the aesthete Wendt of Leipzig, who afterwards
became famous, was chosen by him to keep house for him. Without
saying a word to Jeannette, instead of going for his usual
afternoon walk he went to the church with his chosen bride, and
got through the marriage ceremonies as quickly as possible; and
it was only on his return that he informed us he was leaving, and
would have his things removed that very day. He managed to meet
the consternation, perhaps also the reproaches, of his elderly
friend with quiet composure; and to the end of his life he
continued his regular daily visits to 'Mam'selle Thome,' who at
times would coyly pretend to sulk. It was only poor Friederike
who seemed obliged at times to atone for her brother's sudden

What attracted me in my uncle most strongly was his blunt
contempt of the modern pedantry in State, Church, and School, to
which he gave vent with some humour. Despite the great moderation
of his usual views on life, he yet produced on me the effect of a
thorough free-thinker. I was highly delighted by his contempt for
the pedantry of the schools. Once, when I had come into serious
conflict with all the teachers of the Nicolai School, and the
rector of the school had approached my uncle, as the only male
representative of my family, with a serious complaint about my
behaviour, my uncle asked me during a stroll round the town, with
a calm smile as though he were speaking to one of his own age,
what I had been up to with the people at school. I explained the
whole affair to him, and described the punishment to which I had
been subjected, and which seemed to me unjust. He pacified me,
and exhorted me to be patient, telling me to comfort myself with
the Spanish proverb, un rey no puede morir, which he explained as
meaning that the ruler of a school must of necessity always be in
the right.

He could not, of course, help noticing, to his alarm, the effect
upon me of this kind of conversation, which I was far too young
to appreciate. Although it annoyed me one day, when I wanted to
begin reading Goethe's Faust, to hear him say quietly that I was
too young to understand it, yet, according to my thinking, his
other conversations about our own great poets, and even about
Shakespeare and Dante, had made me so familiar with these sublime
figures that I had now for some time been secretly busy working
out the great tragedy I had already conceived in Dresden. Since
my trouble at school I had devoted all my energies, which ought
by rights to have been exclusively directed to my school duties,
to the accomplishment of this task. In this secret work I had
only one confidante, my sister Ottilie, who now lived with me at
my mother's. I can remember the misgivings and alarm which the
first confidential communication of my great poetic enterprise
aroused in my good sister; yet she affectionately suffered the
tortures I sometimes inflicted on her by reciting to her in
secret, but not without emotion, portions of my work as it
progressed. Once, when I was reciting to her one of the most
gruesome scenes, a heavy thunderstorm came on. When the lightning
flashed quite close to us, and the thunder rolled, my sister felt
bound to implore me to stop; but she soon found it was hopeless,
and continued to endure it with touching devotion.

But a more significant storm was brewing on the horizon of my
life. My neglect of school reached such a point that it could not
but lead to a rupture. Whilst my dear mother had no presentiment
of this, I awaited the catastrophe with longing rather than with

In order to meet this crisis with dignity I at length decided to
surprise my family by disclosing to them the secret of my
tragedy, which was now completed. They were to be informed of
this great event by my uncle. I thought I could rely upon his
hearty recognition of my vocation as a great poet on account of
the deep harmony between us on all other questions of life,
science, and art. I therefore sent him my voluminous manuscript,
with a long letter which I thought would please him immensely. In
this I communicated to him first my ideas with regard to the St.
Nicholas's School, and then my firm determination from that time
forward not to allow any mere school pedantry to check my free
development. But the event turned out very different from what I
had expected. It was a great shock to them. My uncle, quite
conscious that he had been indiscreet, paid a visit to my mother
and brother-in-law, in order to report the misfortune that had
befallen the family, reproaching himself for the fact that his
influence over me had not always, perhaps, been for my good. To
me he wrote a serious letter of discouragement; and to this day I
cannot understand why he showed so small a sense of humour in
understanding my bad behaviour. To my surprise he merely said
that he reproached himself for having corrupted me by
conversations unsuited to my years, but he made no attempt to
explain to me good-naturedly the error of my ways.

The crime this boy of fifteen had committed was, as I said
before, to have written a great tragedy, entitled Leubald und

The manuscript of this drama has unfortunately been lost, but I
can still see it clearly in my mind's eye. The handwriting was
most affected, and the backward-sloping tall letters with which I
had aimed at giving it an air of distinction had already been
compared by one of my teachers to Persian hieroglyphics. In this
composition I had constructed a drama in which I had drawn
largely upon Shakespeare's Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth, and
Goethe's Gotz van Berlichingen. The plot was really based on a
modification of Hamlet, the difference consisting in the fact
that my hero is so completely carried away by the appearance of
the ghost of his father, who has been murdered under similar
circumstances, and demands vengeance, that he is driven to
fearful deeds of violence; and, with a series of murders on his
conscience, he eventually goes mad. Leubald, whose character is a
mixture of Hamlet and Harry Hotspur, had promised his father's
ghost to wipe from the face of the earth the whole race of
Roderick, as the ruthless murderer of the best of fathers was
named. After having slain Roderick himself in mortal combat, and
subsequently all his sons and other relations who supported him,
there was only one obstacle that prevented Leubald from
fulfilling the dearest wish of his heart, which was to be united
in death with the shade of his father: a child of Roderick's was
still alive. During the storming of his castle the murderer's
daughter had been carried away into safety by a faithful suitor,
whom she, however, detested. I had an irresistible impulse to
call this maiden 'Adelaide.' As even at that early age I was a
great enthusiast for everything really German, I can only account
for the obviously un-German name of my heroine by my infatuation
for Beethoven's Adelaide, whose tender refrain seemed to me the
symbol of all loving appeals. The course of my drama was now
characterised by the strange delays which took place in the
accomplishment of this last murder of vengeance, the chief
obstacle to which lay in the sudden passionate love which arose
between Leubald and Adelaide. I succeeded in representing the
birth and avowal of this love by means of extraordinary
adventures. Adelaide was once more stolen away by a robber-knight
from the lover who had been sheltering her. After Leubald had
thereupon sacrificed the lover and all his relations, he hastened
to the robber's castle, driven thither less by a thirst for blood
than by a longing for death. For this reason he regrets his
inability to storm the robber's castle forthwith, because it is
well defended, and, moreover, night is fast falling; he is
therefore obliged to pitch his tent. After raving for a while he
sinks down for the first time exhausted, but being urged, like
his prototype Hamlet, by the spirit of his father to complete his
vow of vengeance, he himself suddenly falls into the power of the
enemy during a night assault. In the subterranean dungeons of the
castle he meets Roderick's daughter for the first time. She is a
prisoner like himself, and is craftily devising flight. Under
circumstances in which she produces on him the impression of a
heavenly vision, she makes her appearance before him. They fall
in love, and fly together into the wilderness, where they realise
that they are deadly enemies. The incipient insanity which was
already noticeable in Leubald breaks out more violently after
this discovery, and everything that can be done to intensify it
is contributed by the ghost of his father, which continually
comes between the advances of the lovers. But this ghost is not
the only disturber of the conciliating love of Leubald and
Adelaide. The ghost of Roderick also appears, and according to
the method followed by Shakespeare in Richard III., he is joined
by the ghosts of all the other members of Adelaide's family whom
Leubald has slain. From the incessant importunities of these
ghosts Leubald seeks to free himself by means of sorcery, and
calls to his aid a rascal named Flamming. One of Macbeth's
witches is summoned to lay the ghosts; as she is unable to do
this efficiently, the furious Leubald sends her also to the
devil; but with her dying breath she despatches the whole crowd
of spirits who serve her to join the ghosts of those already
pursuing him. Leubald, tormented beyond endurance, and now at
last raving mad, turns against his beloved, who is the apparent
cause of all his misery. He stabs her in his fury; then finding
himself suddenly at peace, he sinks his head into her lap, and
accepts her last caresses as her life-blood streams over his own
dying body.

I had not omitted the smallest detail that could give this plot
its proper colouring, and had drawn on all my knowledge of the
tales of the old knights, and my acquaintance with Lear and
Macbeth, to furnish my drama with the most vivid situations. But
one of the chief characteristics of its poetical form I took from
the pathetic, humorous, and powerful language of Shakespeare. The
boldness of my grandiloquent and bombastic expressions roused my
uncle Adolph's alarm and astonishment. He was unable to
understand how I could have selected and used with inconceivable
exaggeration precisely the most extravagant forms of speech to be
found in Lear and Gotz von Berlichingen. Nevertheless, even after
everybody had deafened me with their laments over my lost time
and perverted talents, I was still conscious of a wonderful
secret solace in the face of the calamity that had befallen me. I
knew, a fact that no one else could know, namely, that my work
could only be rightly judged when set to the music which I had
resolved to write for it, and which I intended to start composing

I must now explain my position with respect to music hitherto.
For this purpose I must go back to my earliest attempts in the
art. In my family two of my sisters were musical; the elder one,
Rosalie, played the piano, without, however, displaying any
marked talent. Clara was more gifted; in addition to a great deal
of musical feeling, and a fine rich touch on the piano, she
possessed a particularly sympathetic voice, the development of
which was so premature and remarkable that, under the tuition of
Mieksch, her singing master, who was famous at that time, she was
apparently ready for the role of a prima donna as early as her
sixteenth year, and made her debut at Dresden in Italian opera as
'Cenerentola' in Rossini's opera of that name. Incidentally I
may remark that this premature development proved injurious to
Clara's voice, and was detrimental to her whole career. As I have
said, music was represented in our family by these two sisters.
It was chiefly owing to Clara's career that the musical conductor
C. M. von Weber often came to our house. His visits were varied
by those of the great male-soprano Sassaroli; and in addition to
these two representatives of German and Italian music, we also
had the company of Mieksch, her singing master. It was on these
occasions that I as a child first heard German and Italian music
discussed, and learnt that any one who wished to ingratiate
himself with the Court must show a preference for Italian music,
a fact which led to very practical results in our family council.
Clara's talent, while her voice was still sound, was the object
of competition between the representatives of Italian and German
opera. I can remember quite distinctly that from the very
beginning I declared myself in favour of German opera; my choice
was determined by the tremendous impression made on me by the two
figures of Sassaroli and Weber. The Italian male-soprano, a huge
pot-bellied giant, horrified me with his high effeminate voice,
his astonishing volubility, and his incessant screeching
laughter. In spite of his boundless good-nature and amiability,
particularly to my family, I took an uncanny dislike to him. On
account of this dreadful person, the sound of Italian, either
spoken or sung, seemed to my ears almost diabolical; and when, in
consequence of my poor sister's misfortune, I heard them often
talking about Italian intrigues and cabals, I conceived so strong
a dislike for everything connected with this nation that even in
much later years I used to feel myself carried away by an impulse
of utter detestation and abhorrence.

The less frequent visits of Weber, on the other hand, seemed to
have produced upon me those first sympathetic impressions which I
have never since lost. In contrast to Sassaroli's repulsive
figure, Weber's really refined, delicate, and intellectual
appearance excited my ecstatic admiration. His narrow face and
finely-cut features, his vivacious though often half-closed eyes,
captivated and thrilled me; whilst even the bad limp with which
he walked, and which I often noticed from our windows when the
master was making his way home past our house from the fatiguing
rehearsals, stamped the great musician in my imagination as an
exceptional and almost superhuman being. When, as a boy of nine,
my mother introduced me to him, and he asked me what I was going
to be, whether I wanted perhaps to be a musician, my mother told
him that, though I was indeed quite mad on Freischutz, yet she
had as yet seen nothing in me which indicated any musical talent.

This showed correct observation on my mother's part; nothing had
made so great an impression on me as the music of Freischutz, and
I tried in every possible way to procure a repetition of the
impressions I had received from it, but, strange to say, least of
all by the study of music itself. Instead of this, I contented
myself with hearing bits from Freischutz played by my sisters.
Yet my passion for it gradually grew so strong that I can
remember taking a particular fancy for a young man called Spiess,
chiefly because he could play the overture to Freischutz, which I
used to ask him to do whenever I met him. It was chiefly the
introduction to this overture which at last led me to attempt,
without ever having received any instruction on the piano, to
play this piece in my own peculiar way, for, oddly enough, I was
the only child in our family who had not been given music
lessons. This was probably due to my mother's anxiety to keep me
away from any artistic interests of this kind in case they might
arouse in me a longing for the theatre.

When I was about twelve years old, however, my mother engaged a
tutor for me named Humann, from whom I received regular music
lessons, though only of a very mediocre description. As soon as I
had acquired a very imperfect knowledge of fingering I begged to
be allowed to play overtures in the form of duets, always keeping
Weber as the goal of my ambition. When at length I had got so far
as to be able to play the overture to Freischutz myself, though
in a very faulty manner, I felt the object of my study had been
attained, and I had no inclination to devote any further
attention to perfecting my technique.

Yet I had attained this much: I was no longer dependent for music
on the playing of others; from this time forth I used to try and
play, albeit very imperfectly, everything I wanted to know. I
also tried Mozart's Don Juan, but was unable to get any pleasure
out of it, mainly because the Italian text in the arrangement for
the piano placed the music in a frivolous light in my eyes, and
much in it seemed to me trivial and unmanly. (I can remember that
when my sister used to sing Zerlinen's ariette, Batti, batti, ben
Masetto, the music repelled me, as it seemed so mawkish and

On the other hand, my bent for music grew stronger and stronger,
and I now tried to possess myself of my favourite pieces by
making my own copies. I can remember the hesitation with which my
mother for the first time gave me the money to buy the scored
paper on which I copied out Weber's Lutzow's Jagd, which was the
first piece of music I transcribed.

Music was still a secondary occupation with me when the news of
Weber's death and the longing to learn his music to Oberon fanned
my enthusiasm into flame again. This received fresh impetus from
the afternoon concerts in the Grosser Garten at Dresden, where I
often heard my favourite music played by Zillmann's Town Band, as
I thought, exceedingly well. The mysterious joy I felt in hearing
an orchestra play quite close to me still remains one of my most
pleasant memories. The mere tuning up of the instruments put me
in a state of mystic excitement; even the striking of fifths on
the violin seemed to me like a greeting from the spirit world--
which, I may mention incidentally, had a very real meaning for
me. When I was still almost a baby, the sound of these fifths,
which has always excited me, was closely associated in my mind
with ghosts and spirits. I remember that even much later in life
I could never pass the small palace of Prince Anthony, at the end
of the Ostra Allee in Dresden, without a shudder; for it was
there I had first heard the sound of a violin, a very common
experience to me afterwards. It was close by me, and seemed to my
ears to come from the stone figures with which this palace is
adorned, some of which are provided with musical instruments.
When I took up my post as musical conductor at Dresden, and had
to pay my official visit to Morgenroth, the President of the
Concert Committee, an elderly gentleman who lived for many years
opposite that princely palace, it seemed odd to find that the
player of fifths who had so strongly impressed my musical fancy
as a boy was anything but a supernatural spectre. And when I saw
the well-known picture in which a skeleton plays on his violin to
an old man on his deathbed, the ghostly character of those very
notes impressed itself with particular force upon my childish
imagination. When at last, as a young man, I used to listen to
the Zillmann Orchestra in the Grosser Garten almost every
afternoon, one may imagine the rapturous thrill with which I drew
in all the chaotic variety of sound that I heard as the orchestra
tuned up: the long drawn A of the oboe, which seemed like a call
from the dead to rouse the other instruments, never failed to
raise all my nerves to a feverish pitch of tension, and when the
swelling C in the overture to Freischutz told me that I had
stepped, as it were with both feet, right into the magic realm of
awe. Any one who had been watching me at that moment could hardly
have failed to see the state I was in, and this in spite of the
fact that I was such a bad performer on the piano.

Another work also exercised a great fascination over me, namely,
the overture to Fidelio in E major, the introduction to which
affected me deeply. I asked my sisters about Beethoven, and
learned that the news of his death had just arrived. Obsessed as
I still was by the terrible grief caused by Weber's death, this
fresh loss, due to the decease of this great master of melody,
who had only just entered my life, filled me with strange
anguish, a feeling nearly akin to my childish dread of the
ghostly fifths on the violin. It was now Beethoven's music that I
longed to know more thoroughly; I came to Leipzig, and found his
music to Egmont on the piano at my sister Louisa's. After that I
tried to get hold of his sonatas. At last, at a concert at the
Gewandthaus, I heard one of the master's symphonies for the first
time; it was the Symphony in A major. The effect on me was
indescribable. To this must be added the impression produced on
me by Beethoven's features, which I saw in the lithographs that
were circulated everywhere at that time, and by the fact that he
was deaf, and lived a quiet secluded life. I soon conceived an
image of him in my mind as a sublime and unique supernatural
being, with whom none could compare. This image was associated in
my brain with that of Shakespeare; in ecstatic dreams I met both
of them, saw and spoke to them, and on awakening found myself
bathed in tears.

It was at this time that I came across Mozart's Requiem, which
formed the starting-point of my enthusiastic absorption in the
works of that master. His second finale to Don Juan inspired me
to include him in my spirit world.

I was now filled with a desire to compose, as I had before been
to write verse. I had, however, in this case to master the
technique of an entirely separate and complicated subject. This
presented greater difficulties than I had met with in writing
verse, which came to me fairly easily. It was these difficulties
that drove me to adopt a career which bore some resemblance to
that of a professional musician, whose future distinction would
be to win the titles of Conductor and Writer of Opera.

I now wanted to set Leubald und Adelaide to music, similar to
that which Beethoven wrote to Goethe's Egmont; the various ghosts
from the spirit world, who were each to display different
characteristics, were to borrow their own distinctive colouring
from appropriate musical accompaniment. In order to acquire the
necessary technique of composition quickly I studied Logier's
Methode des Generalbasses, a work which was specially recommended
to me at a musical lending library as a suitable text-book from
which this art might be easily mastered. I have distinct
recollections that the financial difficulties with which I was
continually harassed throughout my life began at this time. I
borrowed Logier's book on the weekly payment system, in the fond
hope of having to pay for it only during a few weeks out of the
savings of my weekly pocket-money. But the weeks ran on into
months, and I was still unable to compose as well as I wished.
Mr. Frederick Wieck, whose daughter afterwards married Robert
Schumann, was at that time the proprietor of that lending
library. He kept sending me troublesome reminders of the debt I
owed him; and when my bill had almost reached the price of
Logier's book I had to make a clean breast of the matter to my
family, who thus not only learnt of my financial difficulties in
general, but also of my latest transgression into the domain of
music, from which, of course, at the very most, they expected
nothing better than a repetition of Leubald und Adelaide.

There was great consternation at home; my mother, sister, and
brother-in-law, with anxious faces, discussed how my studies
should be superintended in future, to prevent my having any
further opportunity for transgressing in this way. No one,
however, yet knew the real state of affairs at school, and they
hoped I would soon see the error of my ways in this case as I had
in my former craze for poetry.

But other domestic changes were taking place which necessitated
my being for some little time alone in our house at Leipzig
during the summer of 1829, when I was left entirely to my own
devices. It was during this period that my passion for music rose
to an extraordinary degree. I had secretly been taking lessons in
harmony from G. Muller, afterwards organist at Altenburg, an
excellent musician belonging to the Leipzig orchestra. Although
the payment of these lessons was also destined to get me into hot
water at home later on, I could not even make up to my teacher
for the delay in the payment of his fees by giving him the
pleasure of watching me improve in my studies. His teaching and
exercises soon filled me with the greatest disgust, as to my mind
it all seemed so dry. For me music was a spirit, a noble and
mystic monster, and any attempt to regulate it seemed to lower it
in my eyes. I gathered much more congenial instruction about it
from Hoffmann's Phantasiestucken than from my Leipzig orchestra
player; and now came the time when I really lived and breathed in
Hoffmann's artistic atmosphere of ghosts and spirits. With my
head quite full of Kreissler, Krespel, and other musical spectres
from my favourite author, I imagined that I had at last found in
real life a creature who resembled them: this ideal musician in
whom for a time I fancied I had discovered a second Kreissler was
a man called Flachs. He was a tall, exceedingly thin man, with a
very narrow head and an extraordinary way of walking, moving, and
speaking, whom I had seen at all those open-air concerts which
formed my principal source of musical education. He was always
with the members of the orchestra, speaking exceedingly quickly,
first to one and then the other; for they all knew him, and
seemed to like him. The fact that they were making fun of him I
only learned, to my great confusion, much later. I remember
having noticed this strange figure from my earliest days in
Dresden, and I gathered from the conversations which I overheard
that he was indeed well known to all Dresden musicians. This
circumstance alone was sufficient to make me take a great
interest in him; but the point about him which attracted me more
than anything was the manner in which he listened to the various
items in the programme: he used to give peculiar, convulsive nods
of his head, and blow out his cheeks as though with sighs. All
this I regarded as a sign of spiritual ecstasy. I noticed,
moreover, that he was quite alone, that he belonged to no party,
and paid no attention to anything in the garden save the music;
whereupon my identification of this curious being with the
conductor Kreissler seemed quite natural. I was determined to
make his acquaintance, and I succeeded in doing so. Who shall
describe my delight when, on going to call on him at his rooms
for the first time, I found innumerable bundles of scores! I had
as yet never seen a score. It is true I discovered, to my regret,
that he possessed nothing either by Beethoven, Mozart, or Weber;
in fact, nothing but immense quantities of works, masses, and
cantatas by composers such as Staerkel, Stamitz, Steibelt, etc.,
all of whom were entirely unknown to me. Yet Flachs was able to
tell me so much that was good about them that the respect which I
felt for scores in general helped me to overcome my regret at not
finding anything by my beloved masters. It is true I learnt later
that poor Flachs had only come into the possession of these
particular scores through unscrupulous dealers, who had traded on
his weakness of intellect and palmed off this worthless music on
him for large sums of money. At all events, they were scores, and
that was quite enough for me. Flachs and I became most intimate;
we were always seen going about together--I, a lanky boy of
sixteen, and this weird, shaky flaxpole. The doors of my deserted
home were often opened for this strange guest, who made me play
my compositions to him while he ate bread and cheese. In return,
he once arranged one of my airs for wind instruments, and, to my
astonishment, it was actually accepted and played by the band in
Kintschy's Swiss Chalet. That this man had not the smallest
capacity to teach me anything never once occurred to me; I was so
firmly convinced of his originality that there was no need for
him to prove it further than by listening patiently to my
enthusiastic outpourings. But as, in course of time, several of
his own friends joined us, I could not help noticing that the
worthy Flachs was regarded by them all as a half-witted fool. At
first this merely pained me, but a strange incident unexpectedly
occurred which converted me to the general opinion about him.
Flachs was a man of some means, and had fallen into the toils of
a young lady of dubious character who he believed was deeply in
love with him. One day, without warning, I found his house closed
to me, and discovered, to my astonishment, that jealousy was the
cause. The unexpected discovery of this liaison, which was my
first experience of such a case, filled me with a strange horror.
My friend suddenly appeared to me even more mad than he really
was. I felt so ashamed of my persistent blindness that for some
time to come I never went to any of the garden concerts for fear
I should meet my sham Kreissler.

By this time I had composed my first Sonata in D minor. I had
also begun a pastoral play, and had worked it out in what I felt
sure must be an entirely unprecedented way.

I chose Goethe's Laune der Verliebten as a model for the form and
plot of my work. I scarcely even drafted out the libretto,
however, but worked it out at the same time as the music and
orchestration, so that, while I was writing out one page of the
score, I had not even thought out the words for the next page. I
remember distinctly that following this extraordinary method,
although I had not acquired the slightest knowledge about writing
for instruments, I actually worked out a fairly long passage
which finally resolved itself into a scene for three female
voices followed by the air for the tenor. My bent for writing for
the orchestra was so strong that I procured a score of Don Juan,
and set to work on what I then considered a very careful
orchestration of a fairly long air for soprano. I also wrote a
quartette in D major after I had myself sufficiently mastered the
alto for the viola, my ignorance of which had caused me great
difficulty only a short time before, when I was studying a
quartette by Haydn.

Armed with these works, I set out in the summer on my first
journey as a musician. My sister Clara, who was married to the
singer Wolfram, had an engagement at the theatre at Magdeburg,
whither, in characteristic fashion, I set forth upon my adventure
on foot.

My short stay with my relations provided me with many experiences
of musical life. It was there that I met a new freak, whose
influence upon me I have never been able to forget. He was a
musical conductor of the name of Kuhnlein, a most extraordinary
person. Already advanced in years, delicate and, unfortunately,
given to drink, this man nevertheless impressed one by something
striking and vigorous in his expression. His chief
characteristics were an enthusiastic worship of Mozart and a
passionate depreciation of Weber. He had read only one book--
Goethe's Faust--and in this work there was not a page in which he
had not underlined some passage, and made some remark in praise
of Mozart or in disparagement of Weber. It was to this man that
my brother-in-law confided the compositions which I had brought
with me in order to learn his opinion of my abilities. One
evening, as we were sitting comfortably in an inn, old Kuhnlein
came in, and approached us with a friendly, though serious

I thought I read good news in his features, but when my brother-
in-law asked him what he thought of my work, he answered quietly
and calmly, 'There is not a single good note in it!' My brother-
in-law, who was accustomed to Kuhnlein's eccentricity, gave a
loud laugh which reassured me somewhat. It was impossible to get
any advice or coherent reasons for his opinion out of Kuhnlein;
he merely renewed his abuse of Weber and made some references to
Mozart which, nevertheless, made a deep impression upon me, as
Kuhnlein's language was always very heated and emphatic.

On the other hand, this visit brought me a great treasure, which
was responsible for leading me in a very different direction from
that advised by Kuhnlein. This was the score of Beethoven's great
Quartette in E flat major, which had only been fairly recently
published, and of which my brother-in-law had a copy made for me.
Richer in experience, and in the possession of this treasure, I
returned to Leipzig to the nursery of my queer musical studies.
But my family had now returned with my sister Rosalie, and I
could no longer keep secret from them the fact that my connection
with the school had been entirely suspended, for a notice was
found saying that I had not attended the school for the last six
months. As a complaint addressed by the rector to my uncle about
me had not received adequate attention, the school authorities
had apparently made no further attempts to exercise any
supervision over me, which I had indeed rendered quite impossible
by absenting myself altogether.

A fresh council of war was held in the family to discuss what was
to be done with me. As I laid particular stress on my bent for
music, my relations thought that I ought, at any rate, to learn
one instrument thoroughly. My brother-in-law, Brockhaus, proposed
to send me to Hummel, at Weimar, to be trained as a pianist, but
as I loudly protested that by 'music' I meant 'composing,' and
not 'playing an instrument,' they gave way, and decided to let me
have regular lessons in harmony from Muller, the very musician
from whom I had had instruction on the sly some little while
before, and who had not yet been paid. In return for this I
promised faithfully to go back to work conscientiously at St.
Nicholas's School. I soon grew tired of both. I could brook no
control, and this unfortunately applied to my musical instruction
as well. The dry study of harmony disgusted me more and more,
though I continued to conceive fantasias, sonatas, and overtures,
and work them out by myself. On the other hand, I was spurred on
by ambition to show what I could do at school if I liked. When
the Upper School boys were set the task of writing a poem, I
composed a chorus in Greek, on the recent War of Liberation. I
can well imagine that this Greek poem had about as much
resemblance to a real Greek oration and poetry, as the sonatas
and overtures I used to compose at that time had to thoroughly
professional music. My attempt was scornfully rejected as a piece
of impudence. After that I have no further recollections of my
school. My continued attendance was a pure sacrifice on my side,
made out of consideration for my family: I did not pay the
slightest attention to what was taught in the lessons, but
secretly occupied myself all the while with reading any book that
happened to attract me.

As my musical instruction also did me no good, I continued in my
wilful process of self-education by copying out the scores of my
beloved masters, and in so doing acquired a neat handwriting,
which in later years has often been admired. I believe my copies
of the C minor Symphony and the Ninth Symphony by Beethoven are
still preserved as souvenirs.

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony became the mystical goal of all my
strange thoughts and desires about music. I was first attracted
to it by the opinion prevalent among musicians, not only in
Leipzig but elsewhere, that this work had been written by
Beethoven when he was already half mad. It was considered the
'non plus ultra' of all that was fantastic and incomprehensible,
and this was quite enough to rouse in me a passionate desire to
study this mysterious work. At the very first glance at the
score, of which I obtained possession with such difficulty, I
felt irresistibly attracted by the long-sustained pure fifths
with which the first phrase opens: these chords, which, as I
related above, had played such a supernatural part in my childish
impressions of music, seemed in this case to form the spiritual
keynote of my own life. This, I thought, must surely contain the
secret of all secrets, and accordingly the first thing to be done
was to make the score my own by a process of laborious copying. I
well remember that on one occasion the sudden appearance of the
dawn made such an uncanny impression on my excited nerves that I
jumped into bed with a scream as though I had seen a ghost. The
symphony at that time had not yet been arranged for the piano; it
had found so little favour that the publisher did not feel
inclined to run the risk of producing it. I set to work at it,
and actually composed a complete piano solo, which I tried to
play to myself. I sent my work to Schott, the publisher of the
score, at Mainz. I received in reply a letter saying 'that the
publishers had not yet decided to issue the Ninth Symphony for
the piano, but that they would gladly keep my laborious work,'
and offered me remuneration in the shape of the score of the
great Missa Solemnis in D, which I accepted with great pleasure.

In addition to this work I practised the violin for some time, as
my harmony master very rightly considered that some knowledge of
the practical working of this instrument was indispensable for
any one who had the intention of composing for the orchestra. My
mother, indeed, paid the violinist Sipp (who was still playing in
the Leipzig orchestra in 1865) eight thalers for a violin (I do
not know what became of it), with which for quite three months I
must have inflicted unutterable torture upon my mother and sister
by practising in my tiny little room. I got so far as to play
certain Variations in F sharp by Mayseder, but only reached the
second or third. After that I have no further recollections of
this practising, in which my family fortunately had very good
reasons of their own for not encouraging me.

But the time now arrived when my interest in the theatre again
took a passionate hold upon me. A new company had been formed in
my birthplace under very good auspices. The Board of Management
of the Court Theatre at Dresden had taken over the management of
the Leipzig theatre for three years. My sister Rosalie was a
member of the company, and through her I could always gain
admittance to the performances; and that which in my childhood
had been merely the interest aroused by a strange spirit of
curiosity now became a more deep-seated and conscious passion.

Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Hamlet, the plays of Schiller, and to
crown all, Goethe's Faust, excited and stirred me deeply. The
Opera was giving the first performances of Marschner's Vampir and
Templer und Judin. The Italian company arrived from Dresden, and
fascinated the Leipzig audience by their consummate mastery of
their art. Even I was almost carried away by the enthusiasm with
which the town was over-whelmed, into forgetting the boyish
impressions which Signor Sassaroli had stamped upon my mind, when
another miracle--which also came to us from Dresden--suddenly
gave a new direction to my artistic feelings and exercised a
decisive influence over my whole life. This consisted of a
special performance given by Wilhelmine Schroder-Devrient, who at
that time was at the zenith of her artistic career, young,
beautiful, and ardent, and whose like I have never again seen on
the stage. She made her appearance in Fidelio.

If I look back on my life as a whole, I can find no event that
produced so profound an impression upon me. Any one who can
remember that wonderful woman at this period of her life must to
some extent have experienced the almost Satanic ardour which the
intensely human art of this incomparable actress poured into his
veins. After the performance I rushed to a friend's house and
wrote a short note to the singer, in which I briefly told her
that from that moment my life had acquired its true significance,
and that if in days to come she should ever hear my name praised
in the world of Art, she must remember that she had that evening
made me what I then swore it was my destiny to become. This note
I left at her hotel, and ran out into the night as if I were mad.
In the year 1842, when I went to Dresden to make my debut with
Rienzi, I paid several visits to the kind-hearted singer, who
startled me on one occasion by repeating this letter word for
word. It seemed to have made an impression on her too, as she had
actually kept it.

At this point I feel myself obliged to acknowledge that the great
confusion which now began to prevail in my life, and particularly
in my studies, was due to the inordinate effect this artistic
interpretation had upon me. I did not know where to turn, or how
to set about producing something myself which might place me in
direct contact with the impression I had received, while
everything that could not be brought into touch with it seemed to
me so shallow and meaningless that I could not possibly trouble
myself with it. I should have liked to compose a work worthy of a
Schroder-Devrient; but as this was quite beyond my power, in my
head-long despair I let all artistic endeavour slide, and as my
work was also utterly insufficient to absorb me, I flung myself
recklessly into the life of the moment in the company of
strangely chosen associates, and indulged in all kinds of
youthful excesses.

I now entered into all the dissipations of raw manhood, the
outward ugliness and inward emptiness of which make me marvel to
this day. My intercourse with those of my own age had always been
the result of pure chance. I cannot remember that any special
inclination or attraction determined me in the choice of my young
friends. While I can honestly say that I was never in a position
to stand aloof out of envy from any one who was specially gifted,
I can only explain my indifference in the choice of my associates
by the fact that through inexperience regarding the sort of
companionship that would be of advantage to me, I cared only to
have some one who would accompany me in my excursions, and to
whom I could pour out my feelings to my heart's content without
caring what effect it might have upon him. The result of this was
that after a stream of confidences to which my own excitement was
the only response, I at length reached the point when I turned
and looked at my friend; to my astonishment I generally found
that there was no question of response at all, and as soon as I
set my heart on drawing something from him in return, and urged
him to confide in me, when he really had nothing to tell, the
connection usually came to an end and left no trace on my life.
In a certain sense my strange relationship with Flachs was
typical of the great majority of my ties in after-life.
Consequently, as no lasting personal bond of friendship ever
found its way into my life, it is easy to understand how delight
in the dissipations of student life could become a passion of
some duration, because in it individual intercourse is entirely
replaced by a common circle of acquaintances. In the midst of
rowdyism and ragging of the most foolish description, I remained
quite alone, and it is quite possible that these frivolities
formed a protecting hedge round my inmost soul, which needed time
to grow to its natural strength and not be weakened by reaching
maturity too soon.

My life seemed to break up in all directions; I had to leave St.
Nicholas's School at Easter 1830, as I was too deeply in disgrace
with the staff of masters ever to hope for any promotion in the
University from that quarter. It was now determined that I should
study privately for six months and then go to St. Thomas's
School, where I should be in fresh surroundings and be able to
work up and qualify in a short time for the University. My uncle
Adolph, with whom I was constantly renewing my friendship, and
who also encouraged me about my music and exercised a good
influence over me in that respect, in spite of the utter
degradation of my life at that time, kept arousing in me an ever
fresh desire for scientific studies. I took private lessons in
Greek from a scholar, and read Sophocles with him. For a time I
hoped this noble poet would again inspire me to get a real hold
on the language, but the hope was vain. I had not chosen the
right teacher, and, moreover, his sitting-room in which we
pursued our studies looked out on a tanyard, the repulsive odour
of which affected my nerves so strongly that I became thoroughly
disgusted both with Sophocles and Greek. My brother-in-law,
Brockhaus, who wanted to put me in the way of earning some
pocket-money, gave me the correcting of the proof-sheets of a new
edition he was bringing out of Becker's Universal History,
revised by Lobell. This gave me a reason for improving by private
study the superficial general instruction on every subject which
is given at school, and I thus acquired the valuable knowledge
which I was destined to have in later life of most of the
branches of learning so uninterestingly taught in class. I must
not forget to mention that, to a certain extent, the attraction
exercised over me by this first closer study of history was due
to the fact that it brought me in eightpence a sheet, and I thus
found myself in one of the rarest positions in my life, actually
earning money; yet I should be doing myself an injustice if I did
not bear in mind the vivid impressions I now for the first time
received upon turning my serious attention to those periods of
history with which I had hitherto had a very superficial
acquaintance. All I recollect about my school days in this
connection is that I was attracted by the classical period of
Greek history; Marathon, Salamis, and Thermopylae composed the
canon of all that interested me in the subject. Now for the first
time I made an intimate acquaintance with the Middle Ages and the
French Revolution, as my work in correcting dealt precisely with
the two volumes which contained these two periods. I remember in
particular that the description of the Revolution filled me with
sincere hatred for its heroes; unfamiliar as I was with the
previous history of France, my human sympathy was horrified by
the cruelty of the men of that day, and this purely human impulse
remained so strong in me that I remember how even quite recently
it cost me a real struggle to give any weight to the true
political significance of those acts of violence.

How great, then, was my astonishment when one day the current
political events of the time enabled me, as it were, to gain a
personal experience of the sort of national upheavals with which
I had come into distant contact in the course of my proof-
correcting. The special editions of the Leipzig Gazette brought
us the news of the July Revolution in Paris. The King of France
had been driven from his throne; Lafayette, who a moment before
had seemed a myth to me, was again riding through a cheering
crowd in the streets of Paris; the Swiss Guards had once more
been butchered in the Tuileries, and a new King knew no better
way of commending himself to the populace than by declaring
himself the embodiment of the Republic. Suddenly to become
conscious of living at a time in which such things took place
could not fail to have a startling effect on a boy of seventeen.
The world as a historic phenomenon began from that day in my
eyes, and naturally my sympathies were wholly on the side of the
Revolution, which I regarded in the light of a heroic popular
struggle crowned with victory, and free from the blemish of the
terrible excesses that stained the first French Revolution. As
the whole of Europe, including some of the German states, was
soon plunged more or less violently into rebellion, I remained
for some time in a feverish state of suspense, and now first
turned my attention to the causes of these upheavals, which I
regarded as struggles of the young and hopeful against the old
and effete portion of mankind. Saxony also did not remain
unscathed; in Dresden it came to actual fighting in the streets,
which immediately produced a political change in the shape of the
proclamation of the regency of the future King Frederick, and the
granting of a constitution. This event filled me with such
enthusiasm that I composed a political overture, the prelude of
which depicted dark oppression in the midst of which a strain was
at last heard under which, to make my meaning clearer, I wrote
the words Friedrich und Freiheil; this strain was intended to
develop gradually and majestically into the fullest triumph,
which I hoped shortly to see successfully performed at one of the
Leipzig Garden Concerts.

However, before I was able to develop my politico-musical
conceptions further, disorders broke out in Leipzig itself which
summoned me from the precincts of Art to take a direct share in
national life. National life in Leipzig at this time meant
nothing more than antagonism between the students and the police,
the latter being the arch-enemy upon whom the youthful love of
liberty vented itself. Some students had been arrested in a
street broil who were now to be rescued. The under-graduates, who
had been restless for some days, assembled one evening in the
Market Place and the Clubs, mustered together, and made a ring
round their leaders. The whole proceeding was marked by a certain
measured solemnity, which impressed me deeply. They sang
Gaudeamus igitur, formed up into column, and picking up from the
crowd any young men who sympathised with them, marched gravely
and resolutely from the Market Place to the University buildings,
to open the cells and set free the students who had been
arrested. My heart beat fast as I marched with them to this
'Taking of the Bastille,' but things did not turn out as we
expected, for in the courtyard of the Paulinum the solemn
procession was stopped by Rector Krug, who had come down to meet
it with his grey head bared; his assurance that the captives had
already been released at his request was greeted with a
thundering cheer, and the matter seemed at an end.

But the tense expectation of a revolution had grown too great not
to demand some sacrifice. A summons was suddenly spread calling
us to a notorious alley in order to exercise popular justice upon
a hated magistrate who, it was rumoured, had unlawfully taken
under his protection a certain house of ill-fame in that quarter.
When I reached the spot with the tail-end of the crowd, I found
the house had been broken into and all sorts of violence had been
committed. I recall with horror the intoxicating effect this
unreasoning fury had upon me, and cannot deny that without the
slightest personal provocation I shared, like one possessed, in
the frantic onslaught of the undergraduates, who madly shattered
furniture and crockery to bits. I do not believe that the
ostensible motive for this outrage, which, it is true, was to be
found in a fact that was a grave menace to public morality, had
any weight with me whatever; on the contrary, it was the purely
devilish fury of these popular outbursts that drew me, too, like
a madman into their vortex.

The fact that such fits of fury are not quick to abate, but, in
accordance with certain natural laws, reach their proper
conclusion only after they have degenerated into frenzy, I was to
learn in my own person. Scarcely did the summons ring out for us
to march to another resort of the same kind than I too found
myself in the tide which set towards the opposite end of the
town. There the same exploits were repeated, and the most
ludicrous outrages perpetrated. I cannot remember that the
enjoyment of alcoholic drinks contributed to the intoxication of
myself and my immediate fellows. I only know that I finally got
into the state that usually succeeds a debauch, and upon waking
next morning, as if from a hideous nightmare, had to convince
myself that I had really taken part in the events of the previous
night by a trophy I possessed in the shape of a tattered red
curtain, which I had brought home as a token of my prowess. The
thought that people generally, and my own family in particular,
were wont to put a lenient construction upon youthful escapades
was a great comfort to me; outbursts of this kind on the part of
the young were regarded as righteous indignation against really
serious scandals, and there was no need for me to be afraid of
owning up to having taken part in such excesses.

The dangerous example, however, which had been set by the
undergraduates incited the lower classes and the mob to similar
excesses on the following nights, against employers and any who
were obnoxious to them. The matter at once assumed a more serious
complexion; property was threatened, and a conflict between rich
and poor stood grinning at our doors. As there were no soldiers
in the town, and the police were thoroughly disorganised, the
students were called in as a protection against the lower orders.
An undergraduate's hour of glory now began, such as I could only
have thirsted for in my schoolboy dreams. The student became the
tutelar deity of Leipzig, called on by the authorities to arm and
band together in defence of property, and the same young men who
two days before had yielded to a rage for destruction, now
mustered in the University courtyard. The proscribed names of the
students' clubs and unions were shouted by the mouths of town
councillors and chief constables in order to summon curiously
equipped undergraduates, who thereupon, in simple mediaeval array
of war, scattered throughout the town, occupied the guard-rooms
at the gates, provided sentinels for the grounds of various
wealthy merchants, and, as occasion demanded, took places which
seemed threatened, more especially inns, under their permanent

Though, unluckily, I was not yet a member of their body, I
anticipated the delights of academic citizenship by half-
impudent, half-obsequious solicitation of the leaders of the
students whom I honoured most. I had the good fortune to
recommend myself particularly to these 'cocks of the walk,' as
they were styled, on account of my relationship to Brockhaus, in
whose grounds the main body of these champions were encamped for
some time. My brother-in-law was among those who had been
seriously threatened, and it was only owing to really great
presence of mind and assurance that he succeeded in saving his
printing works, and especially his steam presses, which were the
chief object of attack, from destruction. To protect his property
against further assault, detachments of students were told off to
his grounds as well; the excellent entertainment which the
generous master of the house offered his jovial guardians in his
pleasant summer-house enticed the pick of the students to him. My
brother-in-law was for several weeks guarded day and night
against possible attacks by the populace, and on this occasion,
as the mediator of a flowing hospitality, I celebrated among the
most famous 'bloods' of the University the true saturnalia of my
scholarly ambition.

For a still longer period the guarding of the gates was entrusted
to the students; the unheard-of splendour which accordingly
became associated with this post drew fresh aspirants to the spot
from far and near. Every day huge chartered vehicles discharged
at the Halle Gate whole bands of the boldest sons of learning
from Halle, Jena, Gottingen, and the remotest regions. They got
down close to the guards at the gate, and for several weeks never
set foot in an inn or any other dwelling; they lived at the
expense of the Council, drew vouchers on the police for food and
drink, and knew but one care, that the possibility of a general
quieting of men's minds would make their opportune guardianship
superfluous. I never missed a day on guard or a night either,
alas! trying to impress on my family the urgent need for my
personal endurance. Of course, the quieter and really studious
spirits among us soon resigned these duties, and only the flower
of the flock of undergraduates remained so staunch that it became
difficult for the authorities to relieve them of their task. I
held out to the very last, and succeeded in making most
astonishing friends for my age. Many of the most audacious
remained in Leipzig even when there was no guard duty to fulfil,
and peopled the place for some time with champions of an
extraordinarily desperate and dissipated type, who had been
repeatedly sent down from various universities for rowdyism or
debt, and who now, thanks to the exceptional circumstances of the
day, found a refuge in Leipzig, where at first they had been
received with open arms by the general enthusiasm of their

In the presence of all these phenomena I felt as if I were
surrounded by the results of an earthquake which had upset the
usual order of things. My brother-in-law, Friedrich Brockhaus,
who could justly taunt the former authorities of the place with
their inability to maintain peace and order, was carried away by
the current of a formidable movement of opposition. He made a
daring speech at the Guildhall before their worships the Town
Council, which brought him popularity, and he was appointed
second-in-command of the newly constituted Leipzig Municipal
Guard. This body at length ousted my adored students from the
guard-rooms of the town gates, and we no longer had the right of
stopping travellers and inspecting their passes. On the other
hand, I flattered myself that I might regard my new position as a
boy citizen as equivalent to that of the French National Guard,
and my brother-in-law, Brockhaus, as a Saxon Lafayette, which, at
all events, succeeded in furnishing my soaring excitement with a
healthy stimulant. I now began to read the papers and cultivate
politics enthusiastically; however, the social intercourse of the
civic world did not attract me sufficiently to make me false to
my beloved academic associates. I followed them faithfully from
the guard-rooms to the ordinary bars, where their splendour as
men of the literary world now sought retirement.

My chief ambition was to become one of them as soon as possible.
This, however, could only be accomplished by being again entered
at a grammar school. St. Thomas's, whose headmaster was a feeble
old man, was the place where my wishes could be most speedily

I joined the school in the autumn of 1830 simply with the
intention of qualifying myself for the Leaving Examination by
merely nominal attendance there. The chief thing in connection
with it was that I and friends of the same bent succeeded in
establishing a sham students' association called the Freshman's
Club. It was formed with all possible pedantry, the institution
of the 'Comment' was introduced, fencing-practice and sword-bouts
were held, and an inaugural meeting to which several prominent
students were invited, and at which I presided as 'Vice' in white
buckskin trousers and great jack-boots, gave me a foretaste of
the delights awaiting me as a full-blown son of the Muses.

The masters of St. Thomas's, however, were not quite so ready to
fall in with my aspirations to studentship; at the end of the
half-year they were of the opinion that I had not given a thought
to their institution, and nothing could persuade them that I had
earned a title to academic citizenship by any acquisition of
knowledge. Some sort of decision was necessary, so I accordingly
informed my family that I had made up my mind not to study for a
profession at the University, but to become a musician. There was
nothing to prevent me matriculating as 'Studiosus Musicae,' and,
without therefore troubling myself about the pedantries of the
authorities at St. Thomas's, I defiantly quitted that seat of
learning from which I had derived small profit, and presented
myself forthwith to the rector of the University, whose
acquaintance I had made on the evening of the riot, to be
enrolled as a student of music. This was accordingly done without
further ado, on the payment of the usual fees.

I was in a great hurry about it, for in a week the Easter
vacation would begin, and the 'men' would go down from Leipzig,
when it would be impossible to be elected member of a club until
the vacation was over, and to stay all those weeks at home in
Leipzig without having the right to wear the coveted colours
seemed to me unendurable torture. Straight from the rector's
presence I ran like a wounded animal to the fencing school, to
present myself for admission to the Saxon Club, showing my card
of matriculation. I attained my object, I could wear the colours
of the Saxonia, which was in the fashion at that time, and in
great request because it numbered so many delightful members in
its ranks.

The strangest fate was to befall me in this Easter vacation,
during which I was really the only remaining representative of
the Saxon Club in Leipzig. In the beginning this club consisted
chiefly of men of good family as well as the better class
elements of the student world; all of them were members of highly
placed and well-to-do families in Saxony in general, and in
particular from the capital, Dresden, and spent their vacation at
their respective homes. There remained in Leipzig during the
vacations only those wandering students who had no homes, and for
whom in reality it was always or never holiday time. Among those
a separate club had arisen of daring and desperate young
reprobates who had found a last refuge, as I said, at Leipzig in
the glorious period I have recorded. I had already made the
personal acquaintance of these swashbucklers, who pleased my
fancy greatly, when they were guarding the Brockhaus grounds.
Although the regular duration of a university course did not
exceed three years, most of these men had never left their
universities for six or seven years.

I was particularly fascinated by a man called Gebhardt, who was
endowed with extraordinary physical beauty and strength, and
whose slim heroic figure towered head and shoulders above all his
companions. When he walked down the street arm-in-arm with two of
the strongest of his comrades, he used suddenly to take it into
his head, by an easy movement of his arm, to lift his friends
high in the air and flutter along in this way as though he had a
pair of human wings. When a cab was going along the streets at a
sharp trot, he would seize a spoke of the wheel with one hand and
force it to pull up. Nobody ever told him that he was stupid
because they were afraid of his strength, hence his limitations
were scarcely noticed. His redoubtable strength, combined with a
temperate disposition, lent him a majestic dignity which placed
him above the level of an ordinary mortal. He had come to Leipzig
from Mecklenburg in the company of a certain Degelow, who was as
powerful and adroit, though by no means of such gigantic
proportions, as his friend, and whose chief attraction lay in his
great vivacity and animated features, he had led a wild and
dissipated life in which play, drink, passionate love affairs,
and constant and prompt duelling had rung the changes.
Ceremonious politeness, an ironic and pedantic coldness, which
testified to bold self-confidence, combined with a very hot
temper, formed the chief characteristics of this personage and
natures akin to his. Degelow's wildness and passion were lent a
curious diabolical charm by the possession of a malicious humour
which he often turned against himself, whereas towards others he
exercised a certain chivalrous tenderness.

These two extraordinary men were joined by others who possessed
all the qualities essential to a reckless life, together with
real and headstrong valour. One of them, named Stelzer, a regular
Berserker out of the Nibelungenlied, who was nick-named Lope, was
in his twentieth term. While these men openly and consciously
belonged to a world doomed to destruction, and all their actions
and escapades could only be explained by the hypothesis that they
all believed that inevitable ruin was imminent, I made in their
company the acquaintance of a certain Schroter, who particularly
attracted me by his cordial disposition, pleasant Hanoverian
accent, and refined wit. He was not one of the regular young
dare-devils, towards whom he adopted a calm observant attitude,
while they were all fond of him and glad to see him. I made a
real friend of this Schroter, although he was much older than I
was. Through him I became acquainted with the works and poems of
H. Heine, and from him I acquired a certain neat and saucy wit,
and I was quite ready to surrender myself to his agreeable
influence in the hope of improving my outward bearing. It was his
company in particular that I sought every day; in the afternoon I
generally met him in the Rosenthal or Kintschy's Chalet, though
always in the presence of those wonderful Goths who excited at
once my alarm and admiration.

They all belonged to university clubs which were on hostile terms
with the one of which I was a member. What this hostility between
the various clubs meant only those can judge who are familiar
with the tone prevalent among them in those days. The mere sight
of hostile colours sufficed to infuriate these men, who otherwise
were kind and gentle, provided they had taken the slightest drop
too much. At all events, as long as the old stagers were sober
they would look with good-natured complacency at a slight young
fellow like me in the hostile colours moving among them so
amicably. Those colours I wore in my own peculiar fashion. I had
made use of the brief week during which my club was still in
Leipzig to become the possessor of a splendid 'Saxon' cap, richly
embroidered with silver, and worn by a man called Muller, who was
afterwards a prominent constable at Dresden. I had been seized
with such a violent craving for this cap that I managed to buy it
from him, as he wanted money to go home. In spite of this
remarkable cap I was, as I have said, welcome in the den of this
band of rowdies: my friend Schroter saw to that. It was only when
the grog, which was the principal beverage of these wild spirits,
began to work that I used to notice curious glances and overhear
doubtful speeches, the significance of which was for some time
hidden from me by the dizziness in which my own senses were
plunged by this baneful drink.

As I was inevitably bound on this account to be mixed up in
quarrels for some time to come, it afforded me a great
satisfaction that my first fight, as a matter of fact, arose from
an incident more creditable to me than those provocations which I
had left half unnoticed. One day Degelow came up to Schroter and
me in a wine-bar that we often frequented, and in quite a
friendly manner confessed to us confidentially his liking for a
young and very pretty actress whose talent Schroter disputed.
Degelow rejoined that this was as it might be, but that, for his
part, he regarded the young lady as the most respectable woman in
the theatre. I at once asked him if he considered my sister's
reputation was not as good. According to students' notions it was
impossible for Degelow, who doubtless had not the remotest
intention of being insulting, to give me any assurance further
than to say that he certainly did not think my sister had an
inferior reputation, but that, nevertheless, he meant to abide by
his assertion concerning the young lady he had mentioned.
Hereupon followed without delay the usual challenge, opening with
the words, 'You're an ass,' which sounded almost ridiculous to my
own ears when I said them to this seasoned swashbuckler.

I remember that Degelow too gasped with astonishment, and
lightning seemed to flash from his eyes; but he controlled
himself in the presence of my friend, and proceeded to observe
the usual formalities of a challenge, and chose broadswords
(krumme Sabel) as the weapons for the fight. The event made a
great stir among our companions, but I saw less reason than
before to abstain from my usual intercourse with them. Only I
became more strict about the behaviour of the swashbucklers, and
for several days no evening passed without producing a challenge
between me and some formidable bully, until at last Count Solms,
the only member of my club who had returned to Leipzig as yet,
visited me as though he were an intimate friend and inquired into
what had occurred. He applauded my conduct, but advised me not to
wear my colours until the return of our comrades from the
vacation, and to keep away from the bad company into which I had
ventured. Fortunately I had not long to wait; university life
soon began again, and the fencing ground was filled. The
unenviable position, in which, in student phrase, I was suspended
with a half-dozen of the most terrible swordsmen, earned me a
glorious reputation among the 'freshmen' and 'juniors,' and even
among the older 'champions' of the Saxonia.

My seconds were duly arranged, the dates for the various duels on
hand settled, and by the care of my seniors the needful time was
secured for me to acquire some sort of skill in fencing. The
light heart with which I awaited the fate which threatened me in
at least one of the impending encounters I myself could not
understand at the time; on the other hand, the way in which that
fate preserved me from the consequences of my rashness seems
truly miraculous in my eyes to this day, and, worthy of further

The preparations for a duel included obtaining some experience of
these encounters by being present at several of them. We freshmen
attained this object by what is called 'carrying duty,' that is
to say, we were entrusted with the rapiers of the corps (precious
weapons of honour belonging to the association), and had to take
them first to the grinder and thence to the scene of encounter, a
proceeding which was attended with some danger, as it had to be
done surreptitiously, since duelling was forbidden by law; in
return we acquired the right of assisting as spectators at the
impending engagements.

When I had earned this honour, the meeting-place chosen for the
duel I was to watch was the billiard-room of an inn in the
Burgstrasse; the table had been moved to one side, and on it the
authorised spectators took their places. Among them I stood up
with a beating heart to watch the dangerous encounters between
those doughty champions. I was told on this occasion of the story
of one of my friends (a Jew named Levy, but known as Lippert),
who on this very floor had given so much ground before his
antagonist that the door had to be opened for him, and he fell
back through it down the steps into the street, still believing
he was engaged in the duel. When several bouts had been finished,
two men came on to the 'pitch,' Tempel, the president of the
Markomanen, and a certain Wohlfart, an old stager, already in his
fourteenth half-year of study, with whom I also was booked for an
encounter later on. When this was the case, a man was not allowed
to watch, in order that the weak points of the duellist might not
be betrayed to his future opponent. Wohlfart was accordingly
asked by my chiefs whether he wanted me removed; whereupon he
replied with calm contempt, 'Let them leave the little freshman
there, in God's name!' Thus I became an eye-witness of the
disablement of a swordsman who nevertheless showed himself so
experienced and skilful on the occasion that I might well have
become alarmed for the issue of my future encounter with him. His
gigantic opponent cut the artery of his right arm, which at once
ended the fight; the surgeon declared that Wohlfart would not be
able to hold a sword again for years, under which circumstances
my proposed meeting with him was at once cancelled. I do not deny
that this incident cheered my soul.

Shortly afterwards the first general reunion of our club was held
at the Green Tap. These gatherings are regular hot-beds for the
production of duels. Here I brought upon myself a new encounter
with one Tischer, but learned at the same time that I had been
relieved of two of my most formidable previous engagements of the
kind by the disappearance of my opponents, both of whom had
escaped on account of debt and left no trace behind them. The
only one of whom I could hear anything was the terrible Stelzer,
surnamed Lope. This fellow had taken advantage of the passing of
Polish refugees, who had at that time already been driven over
the frontier and were making their way through Germany to France,
to disguise himself as an ill-starred champion of freedom, and he
subsequently found his way to the Foreign Legion in Algeria. On
the way home from the gathering, Degelow, whom I was to meet in a
few weeks, proposed a 'truce.' This was a device which, if it was
accepted, as it was in this case, enabled the future combatants
to entertain and talk to one another, which was otherwise most
strictly forbidden. We wandered back to the town arm-in-arm; with
chivalrous tenderness my interesting and formidable opponent
declared that he was delighted at the prospect of crossing swords
with me in a few weeks' time; that he regarded it as an honour
and a pleasure, as he was fond of me and respected me for my
valorous conduct. Seldom has any personal success flattered me
more. We embraced, and amid protestations which, owing to a
certain dignity about them, acquired a significance I can never
forget, we parted. He informed me that he must first pay a visit
to Jena, where he had an appointment to fight a duel. A week
later the news of his death reached Leipzig; he had been mortally
wounded in the duel at Jena.

I felt as if I were living in a dream, out of which I was aroused
by the announcement of my encounter with Tischer. Though he was a
first-rate and vigorous fighter, he had been chosen by our chiefs
for my first passage of arms because he was fairly short. In
spite of being unable to feel any great confidence in my hastily
acquired and little practised skill in fencing, I looked forward
to this my first duel with a light heart. Although it was against
the rules, I never dreamed of telling the authorities that I was
suffering from a slight rash which I had caught at that time, and
which I was informed made wounds so dangerous that if it were
reported it would postpone the meeting, in spite of the fact that
I was modest enough to be prepared for wounds. I was sent for at
ten in the morning, and left home smiling to think what my mother
and sisters would say if in a few hours I were brought back in
the alarming state I anticipated. My chief, Herr v. Schonfeld,
was a pleasant, quiet sort of man, who lived on the marsh. When I
reached his house, he leant out of the window with his pipe in
his mouth, and greeted me with the words: 'You can go home, my
lad, it is all off; Tischer is in hospital.' When I got upstairs
I found several 'leading men' assembled, from whom I learned that
Tischer had got very drunk the night before, and had in
consequence laid himself open to the most outrageous treatment by
the inhabitants of a house of ill-fame. He was terribly hurt, and
had been taken by the police in the first instance to the
hospital. This inevitably meant rustication, and, above all,
expulsion from the academic association to which he belonged.

I cannot clearly recall the incidents that removed from Leipzig
the few remaining fire-eaters to whom I had pledged myself since
that fatal vacation-time; I only know that this aide of my fame
as a student yielded to another. We celebrated the 'freshmen's
gathering,' to which all those who could manage it drove a four-
in-hand in a long procession through the town. After the
president of the club had profoundly moved me with his sudden and
yet prolonged solemnity, I conceived the desire to be among the
very last to return home from the outing. Accordingly I stayed
away three days and three nights, and spent the time chiefly in
gambling, a pastime which from the first night of our festivity
cast its devilish snares around me. Some half-dozen of the
smartest club members chanced to be together at early dawn in the
Jolly Peasant, and forthwith formed the nucleus of a gambling
club, which was reinforced during the day by recruits coming back
from the town. Members came to see whether we were still at it,
members also went away, but I with the original six held out for
days and nights without faltering.

The desire that first prompted me to take part in the play was
the wish to win enough for my score (two thalers): this I
succeeded in doing, and thereupon I was inspired with the hope of
being able to settle all the debts I had made at that time by my
winnings at play. Just as I had hoped to learn composition most
quickly by Logier's method, but had found myself hampered in my
object for a long period by unexpected difficulties, so my plan
for speedily improving my financial position was likewise doomed
to disappointment. To win was not such an easy matter, and for
some three months I was such a victim to the rage for gambling
that no other passion was able to exercise the slightest
influence over my mind.

Neither the Fechtboden (where the students' fights were
practised), nor the beer-house, nor the actual scene of the
fights, ever saw my face again. In my lamentable position I
racked my brains all day to devise ways and means of getting the
money wherewith to gamble at night. In vain did my poor mother
try everything in her power to induce me not to come home so late
at night, although she had no idea of the real nature of my
debauches: after I had left the house in the afternoon I never
returned till dawn the next day, and I reached my room (which was
at some distance from the others) by climbing over the gate, for
my mother had refused to give me a latch-key.

In despair over my ill-luck, my passion for gambling grew into a
veritable mania, and I no longer felt any inclination for those
things which at one time had lured me to student life. I became
absolutely indifferent to the opinion of my former companions and
avoided them entirely; I now lost myself in the smaller gambling
dens of Leipzig, where only the very scum of the students
congregated. Insensible to any feeling of self-respect, I bore
even the contempt of my sister Rosalie; both she and my mother
hardly ever deigning to cast a glance at the young libertine whom
they only saw at rare intervals, looking deadly pale and worn
out: my ever-growing despair made me at last resort to
foolhardiness as the only means of forcing hostile fate to my
side. It suddenly struck me that only by dint of big stakes could
I make big profits. To this end I decided to make use of my
mother's pension, of which I was trustee of a fairly large sum.
That night I lost everything I had with me except one thaler: the
excitement with which I staked that last coin on a card was an
experience hitherto quite strange to my young life. As I had had
nothing to eat, I was obliged repeatedly to leave the gambling
table owing to sickness. With this last thaler I staked my life,
for my return to my home was, of course, out of the question.
Already I saw myself in the grey dawn, a prodigal son, fleeing
from all I held dear, through forest and field towards the
unknown. My mood of despair had gained so strong a hold upon me
that, when my card won, I immediately placed all the money on a
fresh stake, and repeated this experiment until I had won quite a
considerable amount. From that moment my luck grew continuously.
I gained such confidence that I risked the most hazardous stakes:
for suddenly it dawned upon me that this was destined to be my
last day with the cards. My good fortune now became so obvious
that the bank thought it wise to close. Not only had I won back
all the money I had lost, but I had won enough to pay off all my
debts as well. My sensations during the whole of this process
were of the most sacred nature: I felt as if God and His angels
were standing by my side and were whispering words of warning and
of consolation into my ears.

Once more I climbed over the gate of my home in the early hours
of the morning, this time to sleep peacefully and soundly and to
awake very late, strengthened and as though born again.

No sense of shame deterred me from telling my mother, to whom I
presented her money, the whole truth about this decisive night. I
voluntarily confessed my sin in having utilised her pension,
sparing no detail. She folded her hands and thanked God for His
mercy, and forthwith regarded me as saved, believing it
impossible for me ever to commit such a crime again.

And, truth to tell, gambling had lost all fascination for me from
that moment. The world, in which I had moved like one demented,
suddenly seemed stripped of all interest or attraction. My rage
for gambling had already made me quite indifferent to the usual
student's vanities, and when I was freed from this passion also,
I suddenly found myself face to face with an entirely new world.

To this world I belonged henceforth: it was the world of real and
serious musical study, to which I now devoted myself heart and

Even during this wild period of my life, my musical development
had not been entirely at a standstill; on the contrary, it daily
became plainer that music was the only direction towards which my
mental tendencies had a marked bent. Only I had got quite out of
the habit of musical study. Even now it seems incredible that I
managed to find time in those days to finish quite a substantial
amount of composition. I have but the faintest recollection of an
Overture in C major (6/8 time), and of a Sonata in B flat major
arranged as a duet; the latter pleased my sister Ottilie, who
played it with me, so much that I arranged it for orchestra. But
another work of this period, an Overture in B flat major, left an
indelible impression on my mind on account of an incident
connected with it. This composition, in fact, was the outcome of
my study of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in about the same degree
as Leubald und Adelaide was the result of my study of
Shakespeare. I had made a special point of bringing out the
mystic meaning in the orchestra, which I divided into three
distinctly different and opposite elements. I wanted to make the
characteristic nature of these elements clear to the score reader
the moment he looked at it by a striking display of colour, and
only the fact that I could not get any green ink made this
picturesque idea impossible. I employed black ink for the brass
instruments alone, the strings were to have red and the wind
green ink. This extraordinary score I gave for perusal to
Heinrich Dorn, who was at that time musical director of the
Leipzig theatre. He was very young, and impressed me as being a
very clever musician and a witty man of the world, whom the
Leipzig public made much of.

Nevertheless, I have never been able to understand how he could
have granted my request to produce this overture.

Some time afterwards I was rather inclined to believe with
others, who knew how much he enjoyed a good joke, that he
intended to treat himself to a little fun. At the time, however,
he vowed that he thought the work interesting, and maintained
that if it were only brought out as a hitherto unknown work by
Beethoven, the public would receive it with respect, though
without understanding.

It was the Christmas of the fateful year 1830; as usual, there
would be no performance at the theatre on Christmas Eve, but
instead a concert for the poor had been organised, which received
but scant support. The first item on the programme was called by
the exciting title 'New Overture'--nothing more! I had
surreptitiously listened to the rehearsal with some misgiving. I
was very much impressed by the coolness with which Dorn fenced
with the apparent confusion which the members of the orchestra
showed with regard to this mysterious composition. The principal
theme of the Allegro was contained in four bars; after every
fourth bar, however, a fifth bar had been inserted, which had
nothing to do with the melody, and which was announced by a loud
bang on the kettle-drum on the second beat. As this drum-beat
stood out alone, the drummer, who continually thought he was
making a mistake, got confused, and did not give the right
sharpness to the accent as prescribed by the score. Listening
from my hidden corner, and frightened at my original intention,
this accidentally different rendering did not displease me. To my
genuine annoyance, however, Dorn called the drummer to the front
and insisted on his playing the accents with the prescribed
sharpness. When, after the rehearsal, I told the musical director
of my misgivings about this important fact, I could not get him
to promise a milder interpretation of the fatal drum-beat; he
stuck to it that the thing would sound very well as it was. In
spite of this assurance my restlessness grew, and I had not the
courage to introduce myself to my friends in advance as the
author of the 'New Overture.'

My sister Ottilie, who had already been forced to survive the
secret readings of Leubald und Adelaide, was the only person
willing to come with me to hear my work. It was Christmas Eve,
and there was to be the usual Christmas tree, presents, etc., at
my brother-in-law's, Friedrich Brockhaus, and both of us
naturally wanted to be there. My sister, in particular, who lived
there, had a good deal to do with the arrangements, and could
only get away for a short while, and that with great difficulty;
our amiable relation accordingly had the carriage ready for her
so that she might get back more quickly. I made use of this
opportunity to inaugurate, as it were, my entree into the musical
world in a festive manner. The carriage drew up in front of the
theatre. Ottilie went into my brother-in-law's box, which forced
me to try and find a seat in the pit. I had forgotten to buy a
ticket, and was refused admission by the man at the door.
Suddenly the tuning up of the orchestra grew louder and louder,
and I thought I should have to miss the beginning of my work. In
my anxiety I revealed myself to the man at the door as the
composer of the 'New Overture,' and in this way succeeded in
passing without a ticket. I pushed my way through to one of the
first rows of the pit, and sat down in terrible anxiety.

The Overture began: after the theme of the 'black' brass
instruments had made itself heard with great emphasis, the 'red'
Allegro theme started, in which, as I have already mentioned,
every fifth bar was interrupted by the drum-beat from the 'black'
world. What kind of effect the 'green' theme of the wind
instruments, which joined in afterwards, produced upon the
listeners, and what they must have thought when 'black,' 'red,'
and 'green' themes became intermingled, has always remained a
mystery to me, for the fatal drum-beat, brutally hammered out,
entirely deprived me of my senses, especially as this prolonged
and continually recurring effect now began to rouse, not only the
attention, but the merriment of the audience. I heard my
neighbours calculating the return of this effect; knowing the
absolute correctness of their calculation, I suffered ten
thousand torments, and became almost unconscious. At last I awoke
from my nightmare when the Overture, to which I had disdained to
give what I considered a trite ending, came to a standstill most

No phantoms like those in Hoffmann's Tales could have succeeded
in producing the extraordinary state in which I came to my senses
on noticing the astonishment of the audience at the end of the
performance. I heard no exclamations of disapproval, no hissing,
no remarks, not even laughter; all I saw was intense astonishment
at such a strange occurrence, which impressed them, as it did me,
like a horrible nightmare. The worst moment, however, came when I
had to leave the pit and take my sister home. To get up and pass
through the people in the pit was horrible indeed. Nothing,
however, equalled the pain of coming face to face with the man at
the door; the strange look he gave me haunted me ever afterwards,
and for a considerable time I avoided the pit of the Leipzig

My next step was to find my sister, who had gone through the
whole sad experience with infinite pity; in silence we drove home
to be present at a brilliant family festivity, which contrasted
with grim irony with the gloom of my bewilderment.

In spite of it all I tried to believe in myself, and thought I
could find comfort in my overture to the Braut von Messina, which
I believed to be a better work than the fatal one I had just
heard. A reinstatement, however, was out of the question, for the
directors of the Leipzig theatre regarded me for a long time as a
very doubtful person, in spite of Dorn's friendship. It is true
that I still tried my hand at sketching out compositions to
Goethe's Faust, some of which have been preserved to this day:
but soon my wild student's life resumed its sway and drowned the
last remnant of serious musical study in me.

I now began to imagine that because I had become a student I
ought to attend the University lectures. From Traugott Krug, who
was well known to me on account of his having suppressed the
student's revolt, I tried to learn the first principles of
philosophy; a single lesson sufficed to make me give this up. Two
or three times, however, I attended the lectures on aesthetics
given by one of the younger professors, a man called Weiss. This
perseverance was due to the interest which Weiss immediately
aroused in me. When I made his acquaintance at my uncle Adolph's
house, Weiss had just translated the metaphysics of Aristotle,
and, if I am not mistaken, dedicated them in a controversial
spirit to Hegel.

On this occasion I had listened to the conversation of these two
men on philosophy and philosophers, which made a tremendous
impression on me. I remember that Weiss was an absent-minded man,
with a hasty and abrupt manner of speaking; he had an interesting
and pensive expression which impressed me immensely. I recollect
how, on being accused of a want of clearness in his writing and
style, he justified himself by saying that the deep problems of
the human mind could not in any case be solved by the mob. This
maxim, which struck me as being very plausible, I at once
accepted as the principle for all my future writing. I remember
that my eldest brother Albert, to whom I once had to write for my
mother, grew so disgusted with my letter and style that he said
he thought I must be going mad.

In spite of my hopes that Weiss's lectures would do me much good,
I was not capable of continuing to attend them, as my desires in
those days drove me to anything but the study of aesthetics.
Nevertheless, my mother's anxiety at this time on my behalf made
me try to take up music again. As Muller, the teacher under whom
I had studied till that time, had not been able to inspire me
with a permanent love of study, it was necessary to discover
whether another teacher might not be better able to induce me to
do serious work.

Theodor Weinlich, who was choirmaster and musical director at St.
Thomas's Church, held at that time this important and ancient
post which was afterwards occupied by Schicht, and before him by
no less a person than Sebastian Bach. By education he belonged to
the old Italian school of music, and had studied in Bologna under
Pater Martini. He had made a name for himself in this art by his
vocal compositions, in which his fine manner of treating the
parts was much praised. He himself told me one day that a Leipzig
publisher had offered him a very substantial fee if he would
write for his firm another book of vocal exercises similar to the
one which had proved so profitable to his first publisher.
Weinlich told him that he had not got any exercises of the kind
ready at the moment, but offered him instead a new Mass, which
the publisher refused with the words: 'Let him who got the meat
gnaw the bones.' The modesty with which Weinlich told me this
little story showed how excellent a man he was. As he was in a
very bad and weak state of health when my mother introduced me to
him, he at first refused to take me as a pupil. But, after having
resisted all persuasions, he at last took pity on my musical
education, which, as he soon discovered from a fugue which I had
brought with me, was exceedingly faulty. He accordingly promised
to teach me, on condition that I should give up all attempts at
composing for six months, and follow his instructions implicitly.
To the first part of my promise I remained faithful, thanks to
the vast vortex of dissipation into which my life as a student
had drawn me.

When, however, I had to occupy myself for any length of time with
nothing but four-part harmony exercises in strictly rigorous
style, it was not only the student in me, but also the composer
of so many overtures and sonatas, that was thoroughly disgusted.
Weinlich, too, had his grievances against me, and decided to give
me up.

During this period I came to the crisis of my life, which led to
the catastrophe of that terrible evening at the gambling den. But
an even greater blow than this fearful experience awaited me when
Weinlich decided not to have anything more to do with me. Deeply
humiliated and miserable, I besought the gentle old man, whom I
loved dearly, to forgive me, and I promised him from that moment
to work with unflagging energy. One morning at seven o'clock
Weinlich sent for me to begin the rough sketch for a fugue; he
devoted the whole morning to me, following my work bar by bar
with the greatest attention, and giving me his valuable advice.
At twelve o'clock he dismissed me with the instruction to perfect
and finish the sketch by filling in the remaining parts at home.

When I brought him the fugue finished, he handed me his own
treatment of the same theme for comparison. This common task of
fugue writing established between me and my good-natured teacher
the tenderest of ties, for, from that moment, we both enjoyed the
lessons. I was astonished how quickly the time flew. In eight
weeks I had not only gone through a number of the most intricate
fugues, but had also waded through all kinds of difficult
evolutions in counterpoint, when one day, on bringing him an
extremely elaborate double fugue, he took my breath away by
telling me that after this there was nothing left for him to
teach me.

As I was not aware of any great effort on my part, I often
wondered whether I had really become a well-equipped musician.
Weinlich himself did not seem to attach much importance to what
he had taught me: he said, 'Probably you will never write fugues
or canons; but what you have mastered is Independence: you can
now stand alone and rely upon having a fine technique at your
fingers' ends if you should want it.'

The principal result of his influence over me was certainly the
growing love of clearness and fluency to which he had trained me.
I had already had to write the above-mentioned fugue for ordinary
voices; my feeling for the melodious and vocal had in this way
been awakened. In order to keep me strictly under his calming and
friendly influence, he had at the same time given me a sonata to
write which, as a proof of my friendship for him, I had to build
up on strictly harmonic and thematic lines, for which he
recommended me a very early and childlike sonata by Pleyel as a

Those who had only recently heard my Overture must, indeed, have
wondered how I ever wrote this sonata, which has been published
through the indiscretion of Messrs. Breitkopf and Hartel (to
reward me for my abstemiousness, Weinlich induced them to publish
this poor composition). From that moment he gave me a free hand.
To begin with I was allowed to compose a Fantasia for the
pianoforte (in F sharp minor) which I wrote in a quite informal
style by treating the melody in recitative form; this gave me
intense satisfaction because it won me praise from Weinlich.

Soon afterwards I wrote three overtures which all met with his
entire approval. In the following winter (1831-1832) I succeeded
in getting the first of them, in D minor, performed at one of the
Gewandhaus concerts.

At that time a very simple and homely tone reigned supreme in
this institution. The instrumental works were not conducted by
what we call 'a conductor of the orchestra,' but were simply
played to the audience by the leader of the orchestra. As soon as
the singing began, Pohlenz took his place at the conductor's
desk; he belonged to the type of fat and pleasant musical
directors, and was a great favourite with the Leipzig public. He
used to come on the platform with a very important-looking blue
baton in his hand.

One of the strangest events which occurred at that time was the
yearly production of the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven; after the
first three movements had been played straight through like a
Haydn symphony, as well as the orchestra could manage it,
Pohlenz, instead of having to conduct a vocal quartette, a
cantata, or an Italian aria, took his place at the desk to
undertake this highly complicated instrumental work, with its
particularly enigmatical and incoherent opening, one of the most
difficult tasks that could possibly be found for a musical
conductor. I shall never forget the impression produced upon me
at the first rehearsal by the anxiously and carefully played 3/4
time, and the way in which the wild shrieks of the trumpet (with
which this movement begins) resulted in the most extraordinary
confusion of sound.

He had evidently chosen this tempo in order, in some way, to
manage the recitative of the double basses; but it was utterly
hopeless. Pohlenz was in a bath of perspiration, the recitative
did not come off, and I really began to think that Beethoven must
have written nonsense; the double bass player, Temmler, a
faithful veteran of the orchestra, prevailed upon Pohlenz at
last, in rather coarse and energetic language, to put down the
baton, and in this way the recitative really proceeded properly.
All the same, I felt at this time that I had come to the humble
conclusion, in a way I can hardly explain, that this
extraordinary work was still beyond my comprehension. For a long
time I gave up brooding over this composition, and I turned my
thoughts with simple longing towards a clearer and calmer musical

My study of counterpoint had taught me to appreciate, above all,
Mozart's light and flowing treatment of the most difficult
technical problems, and the last movement of his great Symphony
in C major in particular served me as example for my own work. My
D minor Overture, which clearly showed the influence of
Beethoven's Coriolanus Overture, had been favourably received by
the public; my mother began to have faith in me again, and I
started at once on a second overture (in C major), which really
ended with a 'Fugato' that did more credit to my new model than I
had ever hoped to accomplish.

This overture, also, was soon afterwards performed at a recital
given by the favourite singer, Mlle. Palazzesi (of the Dresden
Italian Opera). Before this I had already introduced it at a
concert given by a private musical society called 'Euterpe', when
I had conducted it myself.

I remember the strange impression I received from a remark that
my mother made on that occasion; as a matter of fact this work,
which was written in a counterpoint style, without any real
passion or emotion, had produced a strange effect upon her. She
gave vent to her astonishment by warmly praising the Egmont
Overture, which was played at the same concert, maintaining that
'this kind of music was after all more fascinating than any
stupid fugue.'

At this time I also wrote (as my third opus) an overture to
Raupach's drama, Konig Enzio, in which again Beethoven's
influence made itself even more strongly felt. My sister Rosalie
succeeded in getting it performed at the theatre before the play;
for the sake of prudence they did not announce it on the
programme the first time. Dorn conducted it, and as the
performance went off all right, and the public showed no
dissatisfaction, my overture was played with my full name on the
programme several times during the run of the above-mentioned

After this I tried my hand at a big Symphony (in C major); in
this work I showed what I had learnt by using the influence of my
study of Beethoven and Mozart towards the achievement of a really
pleasant and intelligible work, in which the fugue was again
present at the end, while the themes of the various movements
were so constructed that they could be played consecutively.

Nevertheless, the passionate and bold element of the Sinfonia
Eroica was distinctly discernible, especially in the first
movement. The slow movement, on the contrary, contained
reminiscences of my former musical mysticism. A kind of repeated
interrogative exclamation of the minor third merging into the
fifth connected in my mind this work (which I had finished with
the utmost effort at clearness) with my very earliest period of
boyish sentimentality.

When, in the following year, I called on Friedrich Rochlitz, at
that time the 'Nestor' of the musical aesthetes in Leipzig, and
president of the Gewandhaus, I prevailed upon him to promise me a
performance of my work. As he had been given my score for perusal
before seeing me, he was quite astonished to find that I was a
very young man, for the character of my music had prepared him to
see a much older and more experienced musician. Before this
performance took place many things happened which I must first
mention, as they were of great importance to my life.

My short and stormy career as a student had drowned in me not
only all longing for further development, but also all interest
in intellectual and spiritual pursuits. Although, as I have
pointed out, I had never alienated myself entirely from music, my
revived interest in politics aroused my first real disgust for my
senseless student's life, which soon left no deeper traces on my
mind than the remembrance of a terrible nightmare.

The Polish War of Independence against Russian supremacy filled
me with growing enthusiasm. The victories which the Poles
obtained for a short period during May, 1831, aroused my
enthusiastic admiration: it seemed to me as though the world had,
by some miracle, been created anew. As a contrast to this, the
news of the battle of Ostrolenka made it appear as if the end of
the world had come. To my astonishment, my boon companions
scoffed at me when I commented upon some of these events; the
terrible lack of all fellow-feeling and comradeship amongst the
students struck me very forcibly. Any kind of enthusiasm had to
be smothered or turned into pedantic bravado, which showed itself
in the form of affectation and indifference. To get drunk with
deliberate cold-bloodedness, without even a glimpse of humour,
was reckoned almost as brave a feat as duelling. Not until much
later did I understand the far nobler spirit which animated the
lower classes in Germany in comparison with the sadly degenerate
state of the University students. In those days I felt terribly
indignant at the insulting remarks which I brought upon myself
when I deplored the battle of Ostrolenka.

To my honour be it said, that these and similar impressions
helped to make me give up my low associates. During my studies
with Weinlich the only little dissipation I allowed myself was my
daily evening visit to Kintschy, the confectioner in the
Klostergasse, where I passionately devoured the latest
newspapers. Here I found many men who held the same political
views as myself, and I specially loved to listen to the eager
political discussions of some of the old men who frequented the
place. The literary journals, too, began to interest me; I read a
great deal, but was not very particular in my choice.
Nevertheless, I now began to appreciate intelligence and wit,
whereas before only the grotesque and the fantastic had had any
attraction for me.

My interest in the issue of the Polish war, however, remained
paramount. I felt the siege and capture of Warsaw as a personal
calamity. My excitement when the remains of the Polish army began
to pass through Leipzig on their way to France was indescribable,
and I shall never forget the impression produced upon me by the
first batch of these unfortunate soldiers on the occasion of
their being quartered at the Green Shield, a public-house in the
Meat Market. Much as this depressed me, I was soon roused to a
high pitch of enthusiasm, for in the lounge of the Leipzig
Gewandhaus, where that night Beethoven's C minor Symphony was
being played, a group of heroic figures, the principal leaders of
the Polish revolution, excited my admiration. I felt more
particularly attracted by Count Vincenz Tyszkiewitcz, a man of
exceptionally powerful physique and noble appearance, who
impressed me by his dignified and aristocratic manner and his
quiet self-reliance--qualities with which I had not met before.
When I saw a man of such kingly bearing in a tight-fitting coat
and red velvet cap, I at once realised my foolishness in ever
having worshipped the ludicrously dressed up little heroes of our
students' world. I was delighted to meet this gentleman again at
the house of my brother-in-law, Friedrich Brockhaus, where I saw
him frequently.

My brother-in-law had the greatest pity and sympathy for the
Polish rebels, and was the president of a committee whose task it
was to look after their interests, and for a long time he made
many personal sacrifices for their cause.

The Brockhaus establishment now became tremendously attractive to
me. Around Count Vincenz Tyszkiewitcz, who remained the lodestar
of this small Polish world, gathered a great many other wealthy
exiles, amongst whom I chiefly remember a cavalry captain of the
name of Bansemer, a man of unlimited kindness, but of a rather
frivolous nature; he possessed a marvellous team of four horses
which he drove at such breakneck speed as to cause great
annoyance to the people of Leipzig. Another man of importance
with whom I remember dining was General Bem, whose artillery had
made such a gallant stand at Ostrolenka.

Many other exiles passed through this hospitable house, some of
whom impressed us by their melancholy, warlike bearing, others by
their refined behaviour. Vincenz Tyszkiewitcz, however, remained
my ideal of a true man, and I loved him with a profound
adoration. He, too, began to be interested in me; I used to call
upon him nearly every day, and was sometimes present at a sort of
martial feast, from which he often withdrew in order to be able
to open his heart to me about the anxieties which oppressed him.
He had, in fact, received absolutely no news of the whereabouts
of his wife and little son since they separated at Volhynien.
Besides this, he was under the shadow of a great sorrow which
drew all sympathetic natures to him. To my sister Louise he had
confided the terrible calamity that had once befallen him. He had
been married before, and while staying with his wife in one of
his lonely castles, in the dead of night he had seen a ghostly
apparition at the window of his bedroom. Hearing his name called
several times, he had taken up a revolver to protect himself from
possible danger, and had shot his own wife, who had had the
eccentric idea of teasing him by pretending to be a ghost. I had
the pleasure of sharing his joy on hearing that his family was
safe. His wife joined him in Leipzig with their beautiful boy,
Janusz. I felt sorry not to be able to feel the same sympathy for
this lady as I did for her husband; perhaps one of the reasons of
my antipathy was the obvious and conspicuous way in which she
made herself up, by means of which the poor woman probably tried
to hide how much her beauty had suffered through the terrible
strain of the past events. She soon went back to Galicia to try
and save what she could of their property, and also to provide
her husband with a pass from the Austrian Government, by means of
which he could follow her.

Then came the third of May. Eighteen of the Poles who were still
in Leipzig met together at a festive dinner in a hotel outside
the town; on this day was to be celebrated the first anniversary
of the third of May, so dear to the memory of the Poles. Only the
chiefs of the Leipzig Polish Committee received invitations, and
as a special favour I also was asked. I shall never forget that
occasion. The dinner became an orgy; throughout the evening a
brass band from the town played Polish folksongs, and these were
sung by the whole company, led by a Lithuanian called Zan, in a
manner now triumphant and now mournful. The beautiful 'Third of
May' song more particularly drew forth a positive uproar of
enthusiasm. Tears and shouts of joy grew into a terrible tumult;
the excited men grouped themselves on the grass swearing eternal
friendship in the most extravagant terms, for which the word
'Oiczisna' (Fatherland) provided the principal theme, until at
last night threw her veil over this wild debauch.

That evening afterwards served me as the theme for an orchestral
composition (in the form of an overture) named Polonia; I shall
recount the fate of this work later on. My friend Tyszkiewitcz's
passport now arrived, and he made up his mind to go back to
Galicia via Brunn, although his friends considered it was very
rash of him to do so. I very much wanted to see something of the
world, and Tyszkiewitcz's offer to take me with him, induced my
mother to consent to my going to Vienna, a place that I had long
wished to visit. I took with me the scores of my three overtures
which had already been performed, and also that of my great
symphony as yet unproduced, and had a grand time with my Polish
patron, who took me in his luxurious travelling-coach as far as
the capital of Moravia. During a short stop at Dresden the exiles
of all classes gave our beloved Count a friendly farewell dinner
in Pirna, at which the champagne flowed freely, while the health
was drunk of the future 'Dictator of Poland.'

At last we separated at Brunn, from which place I continued my
journey to Vienna by coach. During the afternoon and night, which
I was obliged to spend in Brunn by myself, I went through
terrible agonies from fear of the cholera which, as I
unexpectedly heard, had broken out in this place. There I was all
alone in a strange place, my faithful friend just departed, and
on hearing of the epidemic I felt as if a malicious demon had
caught me in his snare in order to annihilate me. I did not
betray my terror to the people in the hotel, but when I was shown
into a very lonely wing of the house and left by myself in this
wilderness, I hid myself in bed with my clothes on, and lived
once again through all the horrors of ghost stories as I had done
in my boyhood. The cholera stood before me like a living thing; I
could see and touch it; it lay in my bed and embraced me. My
limbs turned to ice, I felt frozen to the very marrow. Whether I
was awake or asleep I never knew; I only remember how astonished
I was when, on awakening, I felt thoroughly well and healthy.

At last I arrived in Vienna, where I escaped the epidemic which
had penetrated as far as that town. It was midsummer of the year
1832. Owing to the introductions I had with me, I found myself
very much at home in this lively city, in which I made a pleasant
stay of six weeks. As my sojourn, however, had no really
practical purpose, my mother looked upon the cost of this
holiday, short as it seemed, as an unnecessary extravagance on my
part. I visited the theatres, heard Strauss, made excursions, and
altogether had a very good time. I am afraid I contracted a few
debts as well, which I paid off later on when I was conductor of
the Dresden orchestra. I had received very pleasant impressions
of musical and theatrical life, and for a long time Vienna lived
in my memory as the acme of that extraordinarily productive
spirit peculiar to its people. I enjoyed most of all the
performances at the Theater an der Wien, at which they were
acting a grotesque fairy play called Die Abenteuer Fortunat's zu
Wasser und zu Land, in which a cab was called on the shores of
the Black Sea and which made a tremendous impression on me. About
the music I was more doubtful. A young friend of mine took me
with immense pride to a performance of Gluck's Iphigenia in
Tauris, which was made doubly attractive by a first-rate cast
including Wild, Staudigl and Binder: I must confess that on the
whole I was bored by this work, but I did not dare say so. My
ideas of Gluck had attained gigantic proportions from my reading
of Hoffmann's well-known Phantasies; my anticipation of this work
therefore, which I had not studied yet, had led me to expect a
treatment full of overpowering dramatic force. It is possible
that Schroder-Devrient's acting in Fidelio had taught me to judge
everything by her exalted standard.

With the greatest trouble I worked myself up to some kind of
enthusiasm for the great scene between Orestes and the Furies. I
hoped against hope that I should be able to admire the remainder
of the opera. I began to understand the Viennese taste, however,
when I saw how great a favourite the opera Zampa became with the
public, both at the Karnthner Thor and at the Josephstadt. Both
theatres competed vigorously in the production of this popular
work, and although the public had seemed mad about Iphigenia,
nothing equalled their enthusiasm for Zampa. No sooner had they
left the Josephstadt Theatre in the greatest ecstasies about
Zampa than they proceeded to the public-house called the
Strausslein. Here they were immediately greeted by the strains of
selections from Zampa which drove the audience to feverish
excitement. I shall never forget the extraordinary playing of
Johann Strauss, who put equal enthusiasm into everything he
played, and very often made the audience almost frantic with

At the beginning of a new waltz this demon of the Viennese
musical spirit shook like a Pythian priestess on the tripod, and
veritable groans of ecstasy (which, without doubt, were more due
to his music than to the drinks in which the audience had
indulged) raised their worship for the magic violinist to almost
bewildering heights of frenzy.

The hot summer air of Vienna was absolutely impregnated with
Zampa and Strauss. A very poor students' rehearsal at the
Conservatoire, at which they performed a Mass by Cherubini,
seemed to me like an alms paid begrudgingly to the study of
classical music. At the same rehearsal one of the professors, to
whom I was introduced, tried to make the students play my
Overture in D minor (the one already performed in Leipzig). I do
not know what his opinion was, nor that of the students, with
regard to this attempt; I only know they soon gave it up.

On the whole I had wandered into doubtful musical bypaths; and I
now withdrew from this first educational visit to a great
European art centre in order to start on a cheap, but long and
monotonous return journey to Bohemia, by stage-coach. My next
move was a visit to the house of Count Pachta, of whom I had
pleasant recollections from my boyhood days. His estate,
Pravonin, was about eight miles from Prague. Received in the
kindest possible way by the old gentleman and his beautiful
daughters, I enjoyed his delightful hospitality until late into
the autumn. A youth of nineteen, as I then was, with a fast-
growing beard (for which my sisters had already prepared the
young ladies by letter), the continual and close intimacy with
such kind and pretty girls could hardly fail to make a strong
impression on my imagination. Jenny, the elder of the two, was
slim, with black hair, blue eyes, and wonderfully noble features;
the younger one, Auguste, was a little smaller, and stouter, with
a magnificent complexion, fair hair, and brown eyes. The natural
and sisterly manner with which both girls treated me and
conversed with me did not blind me to the fact that I was
expected to fall in love with one or the other of them. It amused
them to see how embarrassed I got in my efforts to choose between
them, and consequently they teased me tremendously.

Unfortunately, I did not act judiciously with regard to the
daughters of my host: in spite of their homely education, they
belonged to a very aristocratic house, and consequently hesitated
between the hope of marrying men of eminent position in their own
sphere, and the necessity of choosing husbands amongst the higher
middle classes, who could afford to keep them in comfort. The
shockingly poor, almost mediaeval, education of the Austrian so-
called cavalier, made me rather despise the latter; the girls,
too, had suffered from the same lack of proper training. I soon
noticed with disgust how little they knew about things artistic,
and how much value they attached to superficial things. However
much I might try to interest them in those higher pursuits which
had become necessary to me, they were incapable of appreciating
them. I advocated a complete change from the bad library novels,
which represented their only reading, from the Italian operatic
arias, sung by Auguste, and, last but not least, from the horsy,
insipid cavaliers, who paid their court to both Jenny and her
sister in the most coarse and offensive manner. My zeal in this
latter respect soon gave rise to great unpleasantness. I became
hard and insulting, harangued them about the French Revolution,
and begged them with fatherly admonitions 'for the love of
heaven' to be content with well-educated middle-class men, and
give up those impertinent suitors who could only harm their
reputation. The indignation provoked by my friendly advice I
often had to ward off with the harshest retorts. I never
apologised, but tried by dint of real or feigned jealousy to get
our friendship back on the old footing. In this way, undecided,
half in love and half angry, one cold November day I said good-
bye to these pretty children. I soon met the whole family again
at Prague, where I made a long sojourn, without, however, staying
at the Count's residence.

My stay at Prague was to be of great musical importance to me. I
knew the director of the Conservatoire, Dionys Weber, who
promised to bring my symphony before the public; I also spent
much of my time with an actor called Moritz, to whom, as an old
friend of our family, I had been recommended, and there I made
the acquaintance of the young musician Kittl.

Moritz, who noticed that not a day passed but what I went to the
much-feared chief of the Conservatoire upon some pressing musical
business, once despatched me with an improvised parody on
Schiller's Burgschaft:--

     Zu Dionys dem Direktor schlich
     Wagner, die Partitur im Gewande;
     Ihn schlugen die Schuler im Bande:
     'Was wolltest du mit den Noten sprich?'
     Entgegnet ihm finster der Wutherich:
     'Die Stadt vom schlechten Geschmacke befreien!
     Das sollst du in den Rezensionen bereuen.'

     [Footnote: To Dionys, the Director,
     crept Wagner, the score in his pocket;
     The students arrested him forthwith:
     'What do'st thou with that music, say?'
     Thus asked him the angry tyrant:
     'To free the town from taste too vile!
     For this the critics will make thee suffer.' ]

Truly I had to deal with a kind of 'Dionysius the Tyrant.' A man
who did not acknowledge Beethoven's genius beyond his Second
Symphony, a man who looked upon the Eroica as the acme of bad
taste on the master's part; who praised Mozart alone, and next to
him tolerated only Lindpaintner: such a man was not easy to
approach, and I had to learn the art of making use of tyrants for
one's own purposes. I dissimulated; I pretended to be struck by
the novelty of his ideas, never contradicted him, and, to point
out the similarity of our standpoints, I referred him to the end
fugue in my Overture and in my Symphony (both in C major), which
I had only succeeded in making what they were through having
studied Mozart. My reward soon followed: Dionys set to work to
study my orchestral creations with almost youthful energy.

The students of the Conservatoire were compelled to practise with
the greatest exactitude my new symphony under his dry and
terribly noisy baton. In the presence of several of my friends,
amongst whom was also the dear old Count Pachta in his capacity
of President of the Conservatoire Committee, we actually held a
first performance of the greatest work that I had written up to
that date.

During these musical successes I went on with my love-making in
the attractive house of Count Pachta, under the most curious
circumstances. A confectioner of the name of Hascha was my rival.
He was a tall, lanky young man who, like most Bohemians, had
taken up music as a hobby; he played the accompaniments to
Auguste's songs, and naturally fell in love with her. Like
myself, he hated the frequent visits of the cavaliers, which
seemed to be quite the custom in this city; but while my
displeasure expressed itself in humour, his showed itself in
gloomy melancholy. This mood made him behave boorishly in public:
for instance, one evening, when the chandelier was to be lighted
for the reception of one of these gentlemen, he ran his head
purposely against this ornament and broke it. The festive
illumination was thus rendered impossible; the Countess was
furious, and Hascha had to leave the house never to return.

I well remember that the first time I was conscious of any
feelings of love, these manifested themselves as pangs of
jealousy, which had, however, nothing to do with real love: this
happened one evening when I called at the house. The Countess
kept me by her side in an ante-room, while the girls, beautifully
dressed and gay, flirted in the reception-room with those hateful
young noblemen. All I had ever read in Hoffmann's Tales of
certain demoniacal intrigues, which until that moment had been
obscure to me, now became really tangible facts, and I left
Prague with an obviously unjust and exaggerated opinion of those
things and those people, through whom I had suddenly been dragged
into an unknown world of elementary passions.

On the other hand I had gained by my stay at Pravonin: I had
written poetry as well as musical compositions. My musical work
was a setting of Glockentone, a poem by the friend of my youth,
Theodor Apel. I had already written an aria for soprano which had
been performed the winter before at one of the theatre concerts.
But my new work was decidedly the first vocal piece I had written
with real inspiration; generally speaking, I suppose it owed its'
characteristics to the influence of Beethoven's Liederkreis: all
the same, the impression that it has left on my mind is that it
was absolutely part of myself, and pervaded by a delicate
sentimentality which was brought into relief by the dreaminess of
the accompaniment. My poetical efforts lay in the direction of a
sketch of a tragi-operatic subject, which I finished in its
entirety in Prague under the title of Die Hochzeit ('The
Wedding'). I wrote it without anybody's knowledge, and this was
no easy matter, seeing that I could not write in my chilly little
hotel-room, and had therefore to go to the house of Moritz, where
I generally spent my mornings. I remember how I used quickly to
hide my manuscript behind the sofa as soon as I heard my host's

An extraordinary episode was connected with the plot of this

Already years ago I had come across a tragic story, whilst
perusing Busching's book on chivalry, the like of which I have
never since read. A lady of noble birth had been assaulted one
night by a man who secretly cherished a passionate love for her,
and in the struggle to defend her honour superhuman strength was
given her to fling him into the courtyard below. The mystery of
his death remained unexplained until the day of his solemn
obsequies, when the lady herself, who attended them and was
kneeling in solemn prayer, suddenly fell forward and expired. The
mysterious strength of this profound and passionate story made an
indelible impression upon my mind. Fascinated, moreover, by the
peculiar treatment of similar phenomena in Hoffmann's Tales, I
sketched a novel in which musical mysticism, which I still loved
so deeply, played an important part. The action was supposed to
take place on the estate of a rich patron of the fine arts: a
young couple was going to be married, and had invited the friend
of the bride-groom, an interesting but melancholy and mysterious
young man, to their wedding. Intimately connected with the whole
affair was a strange old organist. The mystic relations which
gradually developed between the old musician, the melancholy
young man and the bride, were to grow out of the unravelment of
certain intricate events, in a somewhat similar manner to that of
the mediaeval story above related. Here was the same idea: the
young man mysteriously killed, the equally strange sudden death
of his friend's bride, and the old organist found dead on his
bench after the playing of an impressive requiem, the last chord
of which was inordinately prolonged as if it never would end.

I never finished this novel: but as I wanted to write the
libretto for an opera, I took up the theme again in its original
shape, and built on this (as far as the principal features went)
the following dramatic plot:--

Two great houses had lived in enmity, and had at last decided to
end the family feud. The aged head of one of these houses invited
the son of his former enemy to the wedding of his daughter with
one of his faithful partisans. The wedding feast is thus used as
an opportunity for reconciling the two families. Whilst the
guests are full of the suspicion and fear of treachery, their
young leader falls violently in love with the bride of his newly
found ally. His tragic glance deeply affects her; the festive
escort accompanies her to the bridal chamber, where she is to
await her beloved; leaning against her tower-window she sees the
same passionate eyes fixed on her, and realises that she is face
to face with a tragedy.

When he penetrates into her chamber, and embraces her with
frantic passion, she pushes him backwards towards the balcony,
and throws him over the parapet into the abyss, from whence his
mutilated remains are dragged by his companions. They at once arm
themselves against the presumed treachery, and call for
vengeance; tumult and confusion fill the courtyard: the
interrupted wedding feast threatens to end in a night of
slaughter. The venerable head of the house at last succeeds in
averting the catastrophe. Messengers are sent to bear the tidings
of the mysterious calamity to the relatives of the victim: the
corpse itself shall be the medium of reconciliation, for, in the
presence of the different generations of the suspected family,
Providence itself shall decide which of its members has been
guilty of treason. During the preparations for the obsequies the
bride shows signs of approaching madness; she flies from her
bridegroom, refuses to be united to him, and locks herself up in
her tower-chamber. Only when, at night, the gloomy though
gorgeous ceremony commences, does she appear at the head of her
women to be present at the burial service, the gruesome solemnity
of which is interrupted by the news of the approach of hostile
forces and then by the armed attack of the kinsmen of the
murdered man. When the avengers of the presumed treachery
penetrate into the chapel and call upon the murderer to declare
himself, the horrified lord of the manor points towards his
daughter who, turning away from her bridegroom, falls lifeless by
the coffin of her victim. This nocturnal drama, through which ran
reminiscences of Leubald und Adelaide (the work of my far-off
boyhood), I wrote in the darkest vein, but in a more polished and
more noble style, disdaining all light-effects, and especially
all operatic embellishments. Tender passages occurred here and
there all the same, and Weinlich, to whom I had already shown the
beginning of my work on my return to Leipzig, praised me for the
clearness and good vocal quality of the introduction I had
composed to the first act; this was an Adagio for a vocal
septette, in which I had tried to express the reconciliation of
the hostile families, together with the emotions of the wedded
couple and the sinister passion of the secret lover. My principal
object was, all the same, to win my sister Rosalie's approval. My
poem, however, did not find favour in her eyes: she missed all
that which I had purposely avoided, insisted on the ornamentation
and development of the simple situation, and desired more
brightness generally. I made up my mind in an instant: I took the
manuscript, and without a suggestion of ill-temper, destroyed it
there and then. This action had nothing whatever to do with
wounded vanity. It was prompted merely by my desire honestly to
prove to my sister how little I thought of my own work and how
much I cared for her opinion. She was held in great and loving
esteem by my mother and by the rest of our family, for she was
their principal breadwinner: the important salary she earned as
an actress constituted nearly the whole income out of which my
mother had to defray the household expenses. For the sake of her
profession she enjoyed many advantages at home. Her part of the
house had been specially arranged so that she should have all the
necessary comfort and peace for her studies; on marketing days,
when the others had to put up with the simplest fare, she had to
have the same dainty food as usual. But more than any of these
things did her charming gravity and her refined way of speaking
place her above the younger children. She was thoughtful and
gentle and never joined us in our rather loud conversation. Of
course, I had been the one member of the family who had caused
the greatest anxieties both to my mother and to my motherly
sister, and during my life as a student the strained relations
between us had made a terrible impression on me. When therefore
they tried to believe in me again, and once more showed some
interest in my work, I was full of gratitude and happiness. The
thought of getting this sister to look kindly upon my
aspirations, and even to expect great things of me, had become a
special stimulus to my ambition. Under these circumstances a
tender and almost sentimental relationship grew up between
Rosalie and myself, which in its purity and sincerity could vie
with the noblest form of friendship between man and woman. This
was principally due to her exceptional individuality. She had not
any real talent, at least not for acting, which had often been
considered stagey and unnatural. Nevertheless she was much
appreciated owing to her charming appearance as well as to her
pure and dignified womanliness, and I remember many tokens of
esteem which she received in those days. All the same, none of
these advances ever seemed to lead to the prospect of a marriage,
and year by year went by without bringing her hopes of a suitable
match--a fact which to me appeared quite unaccountable. From time
to time I thought I noticed that Rosalie suffered from this state
of affairs. I remember one evening when, believing herself to be
alone, I heard her sobbing and moaning; I stole away unnoticed,
but her grief made such an impression upon me that from that
moment I vowed to bring some joy into her life, principally by
making a name for myself. Not without reason had our stepfather
Geyer given my gentle sister the nickname of 'Geistchen' (little
spirit), for if her talent as an actress was not great, her
imagination and her love of art and of all high and noble things
were perhaps, on that account alone, all the greater. From her
lips I had first heard expressions of admiration and delight
concerning those subjects which became dear to me later on, and
she moved amongst a circle of serious and interesting people who
loved the higher things of life without this attitude ever
degenerating into affectation.

On my return from my long journey I was introduced to Heinrich
Laube, whom my sister had added to her list of intimate friends.
It was at the time when the after-effects of the July revolution
were beginning to make themselves felt amongst the younger men of
intellect in Germany, and of these Laube was one of the most
conspicuous. As a young man he came from Silesia to Leipzig, his
principal object being to try and form connections in this
publishing centre which might be of use to him in Paris, whither
he was going, and from which place Borne also made a sensation
amongst us by his letters. On this occasion Laube was present at
a representation of a play by Ludwig Robert, Die Macht der
Verhallnisse ('The Power of Circumstances'). This induced him to
write a criticism for the Leipzig Tageblatt, which made such a
sensation through its terse and lively style that he was at once
offered, in addition to other literary work, the post of editor
of Die elegante Welt. In our house he was looked upon as a
genius; his curt and often biting manner of speaking, which
seemed to exclude all attempt at poetic expression, made him
appear both original and daring: his sense of justice, his
sincerity and fearless bluntness made one respect his character,
hardened as it had been in youth by great adversity. On me he had
a very inspiring effect, and I was very much astonished to find
that he thought so much of me as to write a flattering notice
about my talent in his paper after hearing the first performance
of my symphony.

This performance took place in the beginning of the year 1833 at
the Leipzig Schneider-Herberge. It was, by the bye, in this
dignified old hall that the society 'Euterpe' held its concerts!
The place was dirty, narrow, and poorly lighted, and it was here
that my work was introduced to the Leipzig public for the first
time, and by means of an orchestra that interpreted it simply
disgracefully. I can only think of that evening as a gruesome
nightmare; and my astonishment was therefore all the greater at
seeing the important notice which Laube wrote about the
performance. Full of hope, I therefore looked forward to a
performance of the same work at the Gewandhaus concert, which
followed soon after, and which came off brilliantly in every way.
It was well received and well spoken of in all the papers; of
real malice there was not a trace--on the contrary, several
notices wore encouraging, and Laube, who had quickly become
celebrated, confided to me that he was going to offer me a
libretto for an opera, which he had first written for Meyerbeer.
This staggered me somewhat, for I was not in the least prepared
to pose as a poet, and my only idea was to write a real plot for
an opera. As to the precise manner, however, in which such a book
had to be written, I already had a very definite and instinctive
notion, and I was strengthened in the certainty of my own
feelings in the matter when Laube now explained the nature of his
plot to me. He told me that he wanted to arrange nothing less
than Kosziusko into a libretto for grand opera! Once again I had
qualms, for I felt at once that Laube had a mistaken idea about
the character of a dramatic subject. When I inquired into the
real action of the play, Laube was astonished that I should
expect more than the story of the Polish hero, whose life was
crowded with incident; in any case, he thought there was quite
sufficient action in it to describe the unhappy fate of a whole
nation. Of course the usual heroine was not missing; she was a
Polish girl who had a love affair with a Russian; and in this way
some sentimental situations were also to be found in the plot.
Without a moment's delay I assured my sister Rosalie that I would
not set this story to music: she agreed with me, and begged me
only to postpone my answer to Laube. My journey to Wurzburg was
of great help to me in this respect, for it was easier to write
my decision to Laube than to announce it to him personally. He
accepted the slight rebuff with good grace, but he never forgave
me, either then or afterwards, for writing my own words!

When he heard what subject I had preferred to his brilliant
political poem, he made no effort to conceal his contempt for my
choice. I had borrowed the plot from a dramatic fairy tale by
Gozzi, La Donna Serpente, and called it Die Feen ('The Fairies').
The names of my heroes I chose from different Ossian and similar
poems: my prince was called Arindal; he was loved by a fairy
called Ada, who held him under her spell and kept him in
fairyland, away from his realm, until his faithful friends at
last found him and induced him to return, for his country was
going to rack and ruin, and even its capital had fallen into the
enemy's hands. The loving fairy herself sends the prince back to
his country; for the oracle has decreed that she shall lay upon
her lover the severest of tasks. Only by performing this task
triumphantly can he make it possible for her to leave the
immortal world of fairies in order to share the fate of her
earthly lover, as his wife. In a moment of deepest despair about
the state of his country, the fairy queen appears to him and
purposely destroys his faith in her by deeds of the most cruel
and inexplicable nature. Driven mad by a thousand fears, Arindal
begins to imagine that all the time he has been dealing with a
wicked sorceress, and tries to escape the fatal spell by
pronouncing a curse upon Ada. Wild with sorrow, the unhappy fairy
sinks down, and reveals their mutual fate to the lover, now lost
to her for ever, and tells him that, as a punishment for having
disobeyed the decree of Fate, she is doomed to be turned into
stone (in Gozzi's version she becomes a serpent). Immediately
afterwards it appears that all the catastrophes which the fairy
had prophesied were but deceptions: victory over the enemy as
well as the growing prosperity and welfare of the kingdom now
follow in quick succession: Ada is taken away by the Fates, and
Arindal, a raving madman, remains behind alone. The terrible
sufferings of his madness do not, however, satisfy the Fates: to
bring about his utter ruin they appear before the repentant man
and invite him to follow them to the nether world, on the pretext
of enabling him to free Ada from the spell. Through the
treacherous promises of the wicked fairies Arindal's madness
grows into sublime exaltation; and one of his household
magicians, a faithful friend, having in the meantime equipped him
with magic weapons and charms, he now follows the traitresses.
The latter cannot get over their astonishment when they see how
Arindal overcomes one after the other of the monsters of the
infernal regions: only when they arrive at the vault in which
they show him the stone in human shape do they recover their hope
of vanquishing the valiant prince, for, unless he can break the
charm which binds Ada, he must share her fate and be doomed to
remain a stone for ever. Arindal, who until then has been using
the dagger and the shield given him by the friendly magician, now
makes use of an instrument--a lyre--which he has brought with
him, and the meaning of which he had not yet understood. To the
sounds of this instrument he now expresses his plaintive moans,
his remorse, and his overpowering longing for his enchanted
queen. The stone is moved by the magic of his love: the beloved
one is released. Fairyland with all its marvels opens its
portals, and the mortal learns that, owing to his former
inconstancy, Ada has lost the right to become his wife on earth,
but that her beloved, through his great and magic power, has
earned the right to live for ever by her side in fairyland.

Although I had written Die Hochzeit in the darkest vein, without
operatic embellishments, I painted this subject with the utmost
colour and variety. In contrast to the lovers out of fairyland I
depicted a more ordinary couple, and I even introduced a third
pair that belonged to the coarser and more comical servant world.
I purposely went to no pains in the matter of the poetic diction
and the verse. My idea was not to encourage my former hopes of
making a name as a poet; I was now really a 'musician' and a
'composer,' and wished to write a decent opera libretto simply
because I was sure that nobody else could write one for me; the
reason being that such a book is something quite unique and
cannot be written either by a poet or by a mere man of letters.
With the intention of setting this libretto to music, I left
Leipzig in January, 1833, to stay in Wurzburg with my eldest
brother Albert, who at the time held an appointment at the
theatre. It now seemed necessary for me to begin to apply my
musical knowledge to a practical purpose, and to this end my
brother had promised to help me in getting some kind of post at
the small Wurzburg theatre. I travelled by post to Bamberg via
Hof, and in Bamberg I stayed a few days in the company of a young
man called Schunke, who from a player on the horn had become an
actor. With the greatest interest I learned the story of Caspar
Hauser, who at that time was very well known, and who (if I am
not mistaken) was pointed out to me. In addition to this, I
admired the peculiar costumes of the market-women, thought with
much interest of Hoffmann's stay at this place, and of how it had
led to the writing of his Tales, and resumed my journey (to
Wurzburg) with a man called Hauderer, and suffered miserably from
the cold all the way.

My brother Albert, who was almost a new acquaintance to me, did
his best to make me feel at home in his not over luxurious
establishment. He was pleased to find me less mad than he had
expected me to be from a certain letter with which I had
succeeded in frightening him some time previously, and he really
managed to procure me an exceptional occupation as choir-master
at the theatre, for which I received the monthly fee of ten
guilders. The remainder of the winter was devoted to the serious
study of the duties required of a musical director: in a very
short time I had to tackle two new grand operas, namely,
Marschner's Vampir and Meyerbeer's Robert der Teufel, in both of
which the chorus played a considerable part. At first I felt
absolutely like a beginner, and had to start on Camilla von Paer,
the score of which was utterly unknown to me. I still remember
that I felt I was doing a thing which I had no right to
undertake: I felt quite an amateur at the work. Soon, however,
Marschner's score interested me sufficiently to make the labour
seem worth my while. The score of Robert was a great
disappointment to me: from the newspapers I had expected plenty
of originality and novelty; I could find no trace of either in
this transparent work, and an opera with a finale like that of
the second act could not be named in the same breath with any of
my favourite works. The only thing that impressed me was the
unearthly keyed trumpet which, in the last act, represented the
voice of the mother's ghost.

It was remarkable to observe the aesthetic demoralisation into
which I now fell through having daily to deal with such a work. I
gradually lost my dislike for this shallow and exceedingly
uninteresting composition (a dislike I shared with many German
musicians) in the growing interest which I was compelled to take
in its interpretation; and thus it happened that the insipidness
and affectation of the commonplace melodies ceased to concern me
save from the standpoint of their capability of eliciting applause
or the reverse. As, moreover, my future career as musical
conductor was at stake, my brother, who was very anxious on my
behalf, looked favourably on this lack of classical obstinacy on
my part, and thus the ground was gradually prepared for that
decline in my classical taste which was destined to last some
considerable time.

All the same, this did not occur before I had given some proof of
my great inexperience in the lighter style of writing. My brother
wanted to introduce a 'Cavatine' from the Piraten, by Bellini,
into the same composer's opera, Straniera; the score was not to
be had, and he entrusted me with the instrumentation of this
work. From the piano score alone I could not possibly detect the
heavy and noisy instrumentation of the ritornelles and intermezzi
which, musically, were so very thin; the composer of a great C
major Symphony with an end fugue could only help himself out of
the difficulty by the use of a few flutes and clarinets playing
in thirds. At the rehearsal the 'Cavatine' sounded so frightfully
thin and shallow that my brother made me serious reproaches about
the waste of copying expenses. But I had my revenge: to the tenor
aria of 'Aubry' in Marschner's Vampir I added an Allegro, for
which I also wrote the words.

My work succeeded splendidly, and earned the praise of both the
public and my brother. In a similar German style I wrote the
music to my Feen in the course of the year 1833. My brother and
his wife left Wurzburg after Easter in order to avail themselves
of several invitations at friends' houses; I stayed behind with
the children--three little girls of tender years--which placed me
in the extraordinary position of a responsible guardian, a post
for which I was not in the least suited at that time of my life.
My time was divided between my work and pleasure, and in
consequence I neglected my charges. Amongst the friends I made
there, Alexander Muller had much influence over me; he was a good
musician and pianist, and I used to listen for hours to his
improvisations on given themes--an accomplishment in which he so
greatly excelled, that I could not fail to be impressed. With him
and some other friends, amongst whom was also Valentin Hamm, I
often made excursions in the neighbourhood, on which occasions
the Bavarian beer and the Frankish wine were wont to fly.
Valentin Hamm was a grotesque individual, who entertained us
often with his excellent violin playing; he had an enormous
stretch on the piano, for he could reach an interval of a
twelfth. Der Letzte Hieb, a public beer-garden situated on a
pleasant height, was a daily witness of my fits of wild and often
enthusiastic boisterousness; never once during those mild summer
nights did I return to my charges without having waxed
enthusiastic over art and the world in general. I also remember a
wicked trick which has always remained a blot in my memory.
Amongst my friends was a fair and very enthusiastic Swabian
called Frohlich, with whom I had exchanged my score of the C
minor Symphony for his, which he had copied out with his own
hand. This very gentle, but rather irritable young man had taken
such a violent dislike to one Andre, whose malicious face I also
detested, that he declared that this person spoilt his evenings
for him, merely by being in the same room with him. The
unfortunate object of his hatred tried all the same to meet us
whenever he could: friction ensued, but Andre would insist upon
aggravating us. One evening Frohlich lost patience. After some
insulting retort, he tried to chase him from our table by
striking him with a stick: the result was a fight in which
Frolich's friends felt they must take part, though they all
seemed to do so with some reluctance. A mad longing to join the
fray also took possession of me. With the others I helped in
knocking our poor victim about, and I even heard the sound of one
terrible blow which I struck Andre on the head, whilst he fixed
his eyes on me in bewilderment.

I relate this incident to atone for a sin which has weighed very
heavily on my conscience ever since. I can compare this sad
experience only with one out of my earliest boyhood days, namely
the drowning of some puppies in a shallow pool behind my uncle's
house in Eisleben. Even to this day I cannot think of the slow
death of these poor little creatures without horror. I have never
quite forgotten some of my thoughtless and reckless actions; for
the sorrows of others, and in particular those of animals, have
always affected me deeply to the extent of filling me with a
disgust of life.

My first love affair stands out in strong contrast against these
recollections. It was only natural that one of the young chorus
ladies with whom I had to practise daily should know how to
attract my attentions. Therese Ringelmann, the daughter of a
grave-digger, thanks to her beautiful soprano voice, led me to
believe that I could make a great singer of her. After I told her
of this ambitious scheme, she paid much attention to her
appearance, and dressed elegantly for the rehearsals, and a row
of white pearls which she wound through her hair specially
fascinated me. During the summer holidays I gave Therese regular
lessons in singing, according to a method which has always
remained a mystery to me ever since. I also called on her very
often at her house, where, fortunately, I never met her
unpleasant father, but always her mother and her sisters. We also
met in the public gardens, but false vanity always kept me from
telling my friends of our relations. I do not know whether the
fault lay with her lowly birth, her lack of education, or my own
doubt about the sincerity of my affections; but in any case when,
in addition to the fact that I had my reasons for being jealous,
they also tried to urge me to a formal engagement, this love
affair came quietly to an end.

An infinitely more genuine affair was my love for Friederike
Galvani, the daughter of a mechanic, who was undoubtedly of
Italian origin. She was very musical, and had a lovely voice; my
brother had patronised her and helped her to a debut at his
theatre, which test she stood brilliantly. She was rather small,
but had large dark eyes and a sweet disposition. The first oboist
of the orchestra, a good fellow as well as a clever musician, was
thoroughly devoted to her. He was looked upon as her fiance, but,
owing to some incident in his past, he was not allowed to visit
at her parents' house, and the marriage was not to take place for
a long time yet. When the autumn of my year in Wurzburg drew
near, I received an invitation from friends to be present at a
country wedding at a little distance from Wurzburg; the oboist
and his fiancee had also been invited. It was a jolly, though
primitive affair; we drank and danced, and I even tried my hand
at violin playing, but I must have forgotten it badly, for even
with the second violin I could not manage to satisfy the other
musicians. But my success with Friederike was all the greater; we
danced like mad through the many couples of peasants until at one
moment we got so excited that, losing all self-control, we
embraced each other while her real lover was playing the dance
music. For the first time in my life I began to feel a flattering
sensation of self-respect when Friederike's fiance, on seeing how
we two flirted, accepted the situation with good grace, if not
without some sadness. I had never had the chance of thinking that
I could make a favourable impression on any young girl. I never
imagined myself good-looking, neither had I ever thought it
possible that I could attract the attention of pretty girls.

On the other hand, I had gradually acquired a certain self-
reliance in mixing with men of my own age. Owing to the
exceptional vivacity and innate susceptibility of my nature--
qualities which were brought home to me in my relations with
members of my circle--I gradually became conscious of a certain
power of transporting or bewildering my more indolent companions.

From my poor oboist's silent self-control on becoming aware of
the ardent advances of his betrothed towards me, I acquired, as I
have said, the first suggestion of the fact that I might count
for something, not only among men, but also among women. The
Frankish wine helped to bring about a state of ever greater
confusion, and under the cover of its influence I at length
declared myself, quite openly, to be Friederike's lover. Ever so
far into the night, in fact, when day was already breaking, we
set off home together to Wurzburg in an open wagon. This was the
crowning triumph of my delightful adventure; for while all the
others, including, in the end, the jealous oboist, slept off
their debauch in the face of the dawning day, I, with my cheek
against Friederike's, and listening to the warbling of the larks,
watched the coming of the rising sun.

On the following day we had scarcely any idea of what had
happened. A certain sense of shame, which was not unbecoming,
held us aloof from one another: and yet I easily won access to
Friederike's family, and from that time forward was daily a
welcome guest, when for some hours I would linger in unconcealed
intimate intercourse with the same domestic circle from which the
unhappy betrothed remained excluded. No word was ever mentioned
of this last connection; never once did it even dawn upon
Friederike to effect any change in the state of affairs, and it
seemed to strike no one that I ought, so to speak, to take the
fiance's place. The confiding manner in which I was received by
all, and especially by the girl herself, was exactly similar to
one of Nature's great processes, as, for instance, when spring
steps in and winter passes silently away. Not one of them ever
considered the material consequences of the change, and this is
precisely the most charming and flattering feature of this first
youthful love affair, which was never to degenerate into an
attitude which might give rise to suspicion or concern. These
relations ended only with my departure from Wurzburg, which was
marked by the most touching and most tearful leavetaking.

For some time, although I kept up no correspondence, the memory
of this episode remained firmly imprinted on my mind. Two years
later, while making a rapid journey through the old district, I
once more visited Friederike: the poor child approached me
utterly shamefaced. Her oboist was still her lover, and though
his position rendered marriage impossible, the unfortunate young
woman had become a mother. I have heard nothing more of her

Amid all this traffic of love I worked hard at my opera, and,
thanks to the loving sympathy of my sister Rosalie, I was able to
find the necessary good spirits for the task. When at the
commencement of the summer my earnings as a conductor came to an
end, this same sister again made it her business loyally to
provide me with ample pocket-money, so that I might devote myself
solely to the completion of my work, without troubling about
anything or being a burden to any one. At a much later date I
came across a letter of mine written to Rosalie in those days,
which were full of a tender, almost adoring love for that noble

When the winter was at hand my brother returned, and the theatre
reopened. Truth to tell, I did not again become connected with
it, but acquired a position, which was even more prominent, in
the concerts of the Musical Society in which I produced my great
overture in C major, my symphony, and eventually portions of my
new opera as well. An amateur with a splendid voice, Mademoiselle
Friedel, sang the great aria from Ada. In addition to this, a
trio was given which, in one of its passages, had such a moving
effect upon my brother, who took part in it, that, to his
astonishment, as he himself admitted, he completely lost his cue
on account of it.

By Christmas my work had come to an end, my score was written out
complete with the most laudable neatness, and now I was to return
to Leipzig for the New Year, in order to get my opera accepted by
the theatre there. On the way home I visited Nuremberg, where I
stayed a week with my sister Clara and with her husband, who were
engaged at the theatre there. I well remember how happy and
comfortable I felt during this pleasant visit to the very same
relatives who a few years previously, when I had stayed with them
at Magdeburg, had been upset by my resolve to adopt music as a
calling. Now I had become a real musician, had written a grand
opera, and had already brought out many things without coming to
grief. The sense of all this was a great joy to me, while it was
no less flattering to my relatives, who could not fail to see
that the supposed misfortune had in the end proved to my
advantage. I was in a jolly mood and quite unrestrained--a state
of mind which was very largely the result not only of my brother-
in-law's cheerful and sociable household, but also of the
pleasant tavern life of the place. In a much more confident and
elated spirit I returned to Leipzig, where I was able to lay the
three huge volumes of my score before my highly delighted mother
and sister.

Just then my family was the richer for the return of my brother
Julius from his long wanderings. He had worked a good while in
Paris as a goldsmith, and had now set up for himself in that
capacity in Leipzig. He too, like the rest, was eager to hear
something out of my opera, which, to be sure, was not so easy, as
I entirely lacked the gift of playing anything of the sort in an
easy and intelligible way. Only when I was able to work myself
into a state of absolute ecstasy was it possible for me to render
something with any effect. Rosalie knew that I meant it to draw a
sort of declaration of love from her; but I have never felt
certain whether the embrace and the sisterly kiss which were
awarded me after I had sung my great aria from Ada, were bestowed
on me from real emotion or rather out of affectionate regard. On
the other hand, the zeal with which she urged my opera on the
director of the theatre, Ringelhardt, the conductor and the
manager was unmistakable, and she did it so effectually that she
obtained their consent for its performance, and that very
speedily. I was particularly interested to learn that the
management immediately showed themselves eager to try to settle
the matter of the costumes for my drama: but I was astonished to
hear that the choice was in favour of oriental attire, whereas I
had intended, by the names I had selected, to suggest a northern
character for the setting. But it was precisely these names which
they found unsuitable, as fairy personages are not seen in the
North, but only in the East; while apart from this, the original
by Gozzi, which formed the basis of the work, undoubtedly bore an
oriental character. It was with the utmost indignation that I
opposed the insufferable turban and caftan style of dress, and
vehemently advocated the knightly garb worn in the early years of
the Middle Ages. I then had to come to a thorough understanding
with the conductor, Stegmayer, on the subject of my score. He was
a remarkable, short, fat man, with fair curly hair, and an
exceptionally jovial disposition; he was, however, very hard to
bring to a point. When over our wine we always arrived at an
understanding very quickly, but as soon as we sat at the piano, I
had to listen to the most extraordinary objections concerning the
trend of which I was for some time extremely puzzled. As the
matter was much delayed by this vacillation, I put myself into
closer communication with the stage manager of the opera, Hauser,
who at that time was much appreciated as a singer and patron of
art by the people of Leipzig.

With this man, too, I had the strangest experiences: he who had
captivated the audiences of Leipzig, more especially with his
impersonation of the barber and the Englishman in Fra Diavolo,
suddenly revealed himself in his own house as the most fanatical
adherent of the most old-fashioned music. I listened with
astonishment to the scarcely veiled contempt with which he
treated even Mozart, and the only thing he seemed to regret was
that we had no operas by Sebastian Bach. After he had explained
to me that dramatic music had not actually been written yet, and
that properly speaking Gluck alone had shown any ability for it,
he proceeded to what seemed an exhaustive examination of my own
opera, concerning which all I had wished to hear from him was
whether it was fit to be performed. Instead of this, however, his
object seemed to be to point out the failure of my purpose in
every number. I sweated blood under the unparalleled torture of
going through my work with this man; and I told my mother and
sister of my grave depression. All these delays had already
succeeded in making it impossible to perform my opera at the date
originally fixed, and now it was postponed until August of the
current year (1834).

An incident which I shall never forget inspired me with fresh
courage. Old Bierey, an experienced and excellent musician, and
in his day a successful composer, who, thanks more particularly
to his long practice as a conductor at the Breslau theatre, had
acquired a perfectly practical knowledge of such things, was then
living at Leipzig, and was a good friend of my people. My mother
and sister begged him to give his opinion about the fitness of my
opera for the stage, and I duly submitted the score to him. I
cannot say how deeply affected and impressed I was to see this
old gentleman appear one day among my relatives, and to hear him
declare with genuine enthusiasm that he simply could not
understand how so young a man could have composed such a score.
His remarks concerning the greatness which he had recognised in
my talent were really irresistible, and positively amazed me.
When asked whether he considered the work presentable and
calculated to produce an effect, he declared his only regret was
that he was no longer at the head of a theatre, because, had he
been, he would have thought himself extremely lucky to secure
such a man as myself permanently for his enterprise. At this
announcement my family was overcome with joy, and their feelings
were all the more justified seeing that, as they all knew, Bierey
was by no means an amiable romancer, but a practical musician
well seasoned by a life full of experience.

The delay was now borne with better spirits, and for a long time
I was able to wait hopefully for what the future might bring.
Among other things, I now began to enjoy the company of a new
friend in the person of Laube, who at that time, although I had
not set his Kosziusko to music, was at the zenith of his fame.
The first portion of his novel, Young Europe, the form of which
was epistolary, had appeared, and had a most stimulating effect
on me, more particularly in conjunction with all the youthful
hopefulness which at that time pulsated in my veins. Though his
teaching was essentially only a repetition of that in Heinse's
Ardinghello, the forces that then surged in young breasts were
given full and eloquent expression. The guiding spirit of this
tendency was followed in literary criticism, which was aimed
mainly at the supposed or actual incapacity of the semi-classical
occupants of our various literary thrones. Without the slightest
mercy the pedants, [Footnote: Zopfe in the German text.--
TRANSLATOR.] among whom Tieck for one was numbered, were treated
as sheer encumbrances and hindrances to the rise of a new
literature. That which led to a remarkable revulsion of my
feelings with regard to those German composers who hitherto had
been admired and respected, was partly the influence of these
critical skirmishes, and the luring sprightliness of their tone;
but mainly the impression made by a fresh visit of Schroder-
Devrient to Leipzig, when her rendering of Borneo in Bellini's
Romeo and Juliet carried every one by storm. The effect of it was
not to be compared with anything that had been witnessed
theretofore. To see the daring, romantic figure of the youthful
lover against a background of such obviously shallow and empty
music prompted one, at all events, to meditate doubtfully upon
the cause of the great lack of effect in solid German music as it
had been applied hitherto to the drama. Without for the moment
plunging too deeply into this meditation, I allowed myself to be
borne along with the current of my youthful feelings, then roused
to ardour, and turned involuntarily to the task of working off
all that brooding seriousness which in my earlier years had driven
me to such pathetic mysticism.

What Pohlenz had not done by his conducting of the Ninth
Symphony, what the Vienna Conservatoire, Dionys Weber, and many
other clumsy performances (which had led me to regard classical
music as absolutely colourless) had not fully accomplished, was
achieved by the inconceivable charm of the most unclassical
Italian music, thanks to the wonderful, thrilling, and entrancing
impersonation of Romeo by Schroder-Devrient. What effect such
powerful, and as regards their causes, incomprehensible, effects
had upon my opinion was shown in the frivolous way in which I was
able to contrive a short criticism of Weber's Euryanthe for the
Elegante Zeitung. This opera had been performed by the Leipzig
company shortly before the appearance of Schroder-Devrient: cold
and colourless performers, among whom the singer in the title-
role, appearing in the wilderness with the full sleeves which
were then the pink of fashion, is still a disagreeable memory.
Very laboriously, and without verve, but simply with the object
of satisfying the demands of classical rules, this company did
its utmost to dispel even the enthusiastic impressions of Weber's
music which I had formed in my youth. I did not know what answer
to make to a brother critic of Laube's, when he pointed out to me
the laboured character of this operatic performance, as soon as
he was able to contrast it with the entrancing effect of that
Romeo evening. Here I found myself confronted with a problem, the
solving of which I was just at that time disposed to take as
easily as possible, and displayed my courage by discarding all
prejudice, and that daringly, in the short criticism just
mentioned in which I simply scoffed at Euryanthe. Just as I had
had my season of wild oat sowing as a student, so now I boldly
rushed into the same courses in the development of my artistic

It was May, and beautiful spring weather, and a pleasure trip
that I now undertook with a friend into the promised land of my
youthful romance, Bohemia, was destined to bring the unrestrained
'Young-European' mood in me to full maturity. This friend was
Theodor Apel. I had known him a long while, and had always felt
particularly flattered by the fact that I had won his hearty
affection; for, as the son of the gifted master of metre and
imitator of Greek forms of poetry, August Apel, I felt that
admiring deference for him which I had never yet been able to
bestow upon the descendant of a famous man. Being well-to-do and
of a good family, his friendship gave me such opportunities of
coming into touch with the easy circumstances of the upper
classes as were not of frequent occurrence in my station of life.
While my mother, for instance, regarded my association with this
highly respectable family with great satisfaction, I for my part
was extremely gratified at the thought of the cordiality with
which I was received in such circles.

Apel's earnest wish was to become a poet, and I took it for
granted that he had all that was needed for such a calling; above
all, what seemed to me so important, the complete freedom that
his considerable fortune assured him by liberating him from all
need of earning his living or of adopting a profession for a
livelihood. Strange to say, his mother, who on the death of his
distinguished father had married a Leipzig lawyer, was very
anxious about the vocation he should choose, and wished her son
to make a fine career in the law, as she was not at all disposed
to favour his poetical gifts. And it was to her attempts to
convert me to her view, in order that by my influence I might
avert the calamity of a second poet in the family, in the person
of the son, that I owed the specially friendly relations that
obtained between herself and me. All her suggestions succeeded in
doing, however, was to stimulate me, even more than my own
favourable opinion of his talent could, to confirm my friend in
his desire to be a poet, and thus to support him in his
rebellious attitude towards his family.

He was not displeased at this. As he was also studying music and
composed quite nicely, I succeeded in being on terms of the
greatest intimacy with him. The fact that he had spent the very
year in which I had sunk into the lowest depths of undergraduate
madness, studying at Heidelberg and not at Leipzig, had kept him
unsullied by any share in my strange excesses, and when we now
met again at Leipzig, in the spring of 1834, the only thing that
we still had in common was the aesthetic aspiration of our lives,
which we now strove by way of experiment to divert into the
direction of the enjoyment of life. Gladly would we have flung
ourselves into lively adventures if only the conditions of our
environment and of the whole middle-class world in which we lived
had in any way admitted of such things. Despite all the
promptings of our instincts, however, we got no further than
planning this excursion to Bohemia. At all events, it was
something that we made the journey not by the post, but in our
own carriage, and our genuine pleasure continued to lie in the
fact that at Teplitz, for instance, we daily took long drives in
a fine carriage. When in the evening we had supped off trout at
the Wilhelmsburg, drunk good Czernosek wine with Bilin water, and
duly excited ourselves over Hoffmann, Beethoven, Shakespeare,
Heinse's Ardinghello, and other matters, and then, with our limbs
comfortably outstretched in our elegant carriage, drove back in
the summer twilight to the 'King of Prussia,' where we occupied
the large balcony-room on the first floor, we felt that we had
spent the day like young gods, and for sheer exuberance could
think of nothing better to do than to indulge in the most
frightful quarrels which, especially when the windows were open,
would collect numbers of alarmed listeners in the square before
the inn.

One fine morning I stole away from my friend in order to take my
breakfast alone at the 'Schlackenburg,' and also to seize an
opportunity of jotting down the plan of a new operatic
composition in my note-book. With this end in view, I had
mastered the subject of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, which,
in accordance with my present mood, I soon transformed pretty
freely into a libretto entitled Liebesverbot. Young Europe and
Ardinghello, and the strange frame of mind into which I had
fallen with regard to classical operatic music, furnished me with
the keynote of my conception, which was directed more
particularly against puritanical hypocrisy, and which thus tended
boldly to exalt 'unrestrained sensuality.' I took care to
understand the grave Shakespearean theme only in this sense. I
could see only the gloomy strait-laced viceroy, his heart aflame
with the most passionate love for the beautiful novice, who,
while she beseeches him to pardon her brother condemned to death
for illicit love, at the same time kindles the most dangerous
fire in the stubborn Puritan's breast by infecting him with the
lovely warmth of her human emotion.

The fact that these powerful features are so richly developed in
Shakespeare's creation only in order that, in the end, they may
be weighed all the more gravely in the scales of justice, was no
concern of mine: all I cared about was to expose the sinfulness
of hypocrisy and the unnaturalness of such cruel moral censure.
Thus I completely dropped Measure for Measure, and made the
hypocrite be brought to justice only by the avenging power of
love. I transferred the theme from the fabulous city of Vienna to
the capital of sunny Sicily, in which a German viceroy, indignant
at the inconceivably loose morals of the people, attempts to
introduce a puritanical reform, and comes miserably to grief over
it. Die Stumme von Portici probably contributed to some extent to
this theme, as did also certain memories of Die Sizilianische
Vesper. When I remember that at last even the gentle Sicilian
Bellini constituted a factor in this composition, I cannot, to be
sure, help smiling at the strange medley in which the most
extraordinary misunderstandings here took shape.

This remained for the present a mere draft. Studies from life
destined for my work were first to be carried out on this
delightful excursion to Bohemia. I led my friend in triumph to
Prague, in the hope of securing the same impressions for him
which had stirred me so profoundly when I was there. We met my
fair friends in the city itself; for, owing to the death of old
Count Pachta, material changes had taken place in the family, and
the surviving daughters no longer went to Pravonin. My behaviour
was full of arrogance, and by means of it I doubtless wished to
vent a certain capricious lust of revenge for the feelings of
bitterness with which I had taken leave of this circle some years
previously. My friend was well received. The changed family
circumstances forced the charming girls ever more and more
imperatively to come to some decision as to their future, and a
wealthy bourgeois, though not exactly in trade himself, but in
possession of ample means, seemed to the anxious mother, at all
events, a good adviser. Without either showing or feeling any
malice in the matter, I expressed my pleasure at the sight of the
strange confusion caused by Theodor's introduction into the
family by the merriest and wildest jests: for my only intercourse
with the ladies consisted purely of jokes and friendly chaff.
They could not understand how it was that I had altered so
strangely. There was no longer any of that love of wrangling,
that rage for instructing, and that zeal in converting in me
which formerly they had found so irritating. But at the same time
not a sensible word could I be made to utter, and they who were
now wanting to talk over many things seriously could get nothing
out of me save the wildest tomfoolery. As on this occasion, in my
character of an uncaged bird, I boldly allowed myself many a
liberty against which they felt themselves powerless, my
exuberant spirits were excited all the more when my friend, who
was led away by my example, tried to imitate me--a thing they
took in very bad part from him.

Only once was there any attempt at seriousness between us: I was
sitting at the piano, and was listening to my companion, who was
telling the ladies that in a conversation at the hotel I had
found occasion to express myself most warmly to some one who
appeared to be surprised on hearing of the domestic and
industrious qualities of my lady friends. I was deeply moved
when, as the outcome of my companion's remarks, I gathered what
unpleasant experiences the poor things had already been through:
for what seemed to me a very natural action on my part, appeared
to fill them with unexpected pleasure. Jenny, for instance, came
up to me and hugged me with great warmth. By general consent I
was now granted the right of behaving with almost studied
rudeness, and I replied even to Jenny's warm outburst only with
my usual banter.

In our hotel, the 'Black Horse,' which was so famous in those
days, I found the playground in which I was able to carry the
mischievous spirit not exhausted at the Pachta's house to the
point of recklessness. Out of the most accidental material in
table and travelling guests we succeeded in gathering a company
around us which allowed us, until far into the night, to lead it
into the most inconceivable follies. To all this I was incited
more particularly by the personality of a very timid and
undersized business man from Frankfort on the Oder, who longed to
seem of a daring disposition; and his presence stimulated me, if
only owing to the remarkable chance it gave me of coming into
contact with some one who was at home in Frankfort 'on the Oder.'
Any one who knows how things then stood in Austria can form some
idea of my recklessness when I say that I once went so far as to
cause our symposium in the public room to bellow the Marseillaise
out loud into the night. Therefore, when after this heroic
exploit was over, and while I was undressing, I clambered on the
outer ledges of the windows from one room to the other on the
second floor, I naturally horrified those who did not know of the
love of acrobatic feats which I had cultivated in my earliest

Even if I had exposed myself without fear to such dangers, I was
soon sobered down next morning by a summons from the police.
When, in addition to this, I recalled the singing of the
Marseillaise, I was filled with the gravest fears. After having
been detained at the station a long time, owing to a strange
misunderstanding, the upshot of it was that the inspector who was
told off to examine me found that there was not sufficient time
left for a serious hearing, and, to my great relief, I was
allowed to go after replying to a few harmless questions
concerning the intended length of my stay. Nevertheless, we
thought it advisable not to yield to the temptation of playing
any more pranks beneath the spread wings of the double eagle.

By means of a circuitous route into which we were led by our
insatiable longing for adventures--adventures which, as a matter
of fact, occurred only in our imagination, and which to all
intents and purposes were but modest diversions on the road--we
at length got back to Leipzig. And with this return home the
really cheerful period of my life as a youth definitely closed.
If, up to that time, I had not been free from serious errors and
moments of passion, it was only now that care cast its first
shadow across my path.

My family had anxiously awaited my return in order to inform me
that the post of conductor had been offered to me by the
Magdeburg Theatre Company. This company during the current summer
month was performing at a watering place called Lauchstadt. The
manager could not get on with an incompetent conductor that had
been sent to him, and in his extremity had applied to Leipzig in
the hope of getting a substitute forthwith. Stegmayer, the
conductor, who had no inclination to practise my score Feen
during the hot summer weather, as he had promised to do, promptly
recommended me for the post, and in that way really managed to
shake off a very troublesome tormentor. For although, on the one
hand, I really desired to be able to abandon myself freely and
without restraint to the torrent of adventures that constitute
the artist's life, yet a longing for independence, which could be
won only by my earning my own living, had been greatly
strengthened in me by the state of my affairs. Albeit, I had the
feeling that a solid basis for the gratification of this desire
was not to be laid in Lauchstadt; nor did I find it easy to
assist the plot concocted against the production of my Feen. I
therefore determined to make a preliminary visit to the place
just to see how things stood.

This little watering-place had, in the days of Goethe and
Schiller, acquired a very wide reputation, its wooden theatre had
been built according to the design of the former, and the first
performance of the Braut von Messina had been given there. But
although I repeated all this to myself, the place made me feel
rather doubtful. I asked for the house of the director of the
theatre. He proved to be out, but a small dirty boy, his son, was
told to take me to the theatre to find 'Papa.' Papa, however, met
us on the way. He was an elderly man; he wore a dressing-gown,
and on his head a cap. His delight at greeting me was interrupted
by complaints about a serious indisposition, for which his son
was to fetch him a cordial from a shop close by. Before
despatching the boy on this errand he pressed a real silver penny
into his hand with a certain ostentation which was obviously for
my benefit. This person was Heinrich Bethmann, surviving husband
of the famous actress of that name, who, having lived in the
heyday of the German stage, had won the favour of the King of
Prussia; and won it so lastingly, that long after her death it
had continued to be extended to her spouse. He always drew a nice
pension from the Prussian court, and permanently enjoyed its
support without ever being able to forfeit its protection by his
irregular and dissipated ways.

At the time of which I am speaking he had sunk to his lowest,
owing to continued theatre management. His speech and manners
revealed the sugary refinement of a bygone day, while all that he
did and everything about him testified to the most shameful
neglect. He took me back to his house, where he presented me to
his second wife, who, crippled in one foot, lay on an
extraordinary couch while an elderly bass, concerning whose
excessive devotion Bethmann had already complained to me quite
openly, smoked his pipe beside her. From there the director took
me to his stage manager, who lived in the same house.

With the latter, who was just engaged in a consultation about the
repertory with the theatre attendant, a toothless old skeleton,
he left me to settle the necessary arrangements. As soon as
Bethmann had gone, Schmale, the stage manager, shrugged his
shoulders and smiled, assuring me that that was just the way of
the director, to put everything on his back and trouble himself
about nothing. There he had been sitting for over an hour,
discussing with Kroge what should be put on next Sunday: it was
all very well his starting Don Juan, but how could he get a
rehearsal carried out, when the Merseburg town bandsmen, who
formed the orchestra, would not come over on Saturday to

All the time Schmale kept reaching out through the open window to
a cherry tree from which he picked and persistently ate the
fruit, ejecting the stones with a disagreeable noise. Now it was
this last circumstance in particular which decided me; for,
strange to say, I have an innate aversion from fruit. I informed
the stage manager that he need not trouble at all about Don Juan
for Sunday, since for my part, if they had reckoned on my making
my first appearance at this performance, I must anyhow disappoint
the director, as I had no choice but to return at once to
Leipzig, where I had to put my affairs in order. This polite
manner of tendering my absolute refusal to accept the
appointment--a conclusion I had quickly arrived at in my own
mind--forced me to practise some dissimulation, and made it
necessary for me to appear as if I really had some other purpose
in coming to Lauchstadt. This pretence in itself was quite
unnecessary, seeing that I was quite determined never to return
there again.

People offered to help me in finding a lodging, and a young actor
whom I had chanced to know at Wurzburg undertook to be my guide
in the matter. While he was taking me to the best lodging he
knew, he told me that presently he would do me the kindness of
making me the housemate of the prettiest and nicest girl to be
found in the place at the time. She was the junior lead of the
company, Mademoiselle Minna Planer, of whom doubtless I had
already heard.

As luck would have it, the promised damsel met us at the door of
the house in question. Her appearance and bearing formed the most
striking contrast possible to all the unpleasant impressions of
the theatre which it had been my lot to receive on this fateful
morning. Looking very charming and fresh, the young actress's
general manner and movements were full of a certain majesty and
grave assurance which lent an agreeable and captivating air of
dignity to her otherwise pleasant expression. Her scrupulously
clean and tidy dress completed the startling effect of the
unexpected encounter. After I had been introduced to her in the
hall as the new conductor, and after she had done regarding with
astonishment the stranger who seemed so young for such a title,
she recommended me kindly to the landlady of the house, and
begged that I might be well looked after; whereupon she walked
proudly and serenely across the street to her rehearsal.

I engaged a room on the spot, agreed to Don Juan for Sunday,
regretted greatly that I had not brought my luggage with me from
Leipzig, and hastened to return thither as quickly as possible in
order to get back to Lauchstadt all the sooner. The die was cast.
The serious side of life at once confronted me in the form of
significant experiences. At Leipzig I had to take a furtive leave
of Laube. At the instance of Prussia he had been warned off Saxon
soil, and he half guessed at the meaning which was to be attached
to this move. The time of undisguised reaction against the
Liberal movement of the early 'thirties had set in: the fact that
Laube was concerned in no sort of political work, but had devoted
himself merely to literary activity, always aiming simply at
aesthetic objects, made the action of the police quite
incomprehensible to us for the time being. The disgusting
ambiguity with which the Leipzig authorities answered all his
questions as to the cause of his expulsion soon gave him the
strongest suspicions as to what their intentions towards him
actually were.

Leipzig, as the scene of his literary labours, being inestimably
precious, it mattered greatly to him to keep within reach of it.
My friend Apel owned a fine estate on Prussian soil, within but a
few hours' distance of Leipzig, and we conceived the wish of
seeing Laube hospitably harboured there. My friend, who without
infringing the legal stipulations was in a position to give the
persecuted man a place of refuge, immediately assented, and with
great readiness, to our desire, but confessed to us next day,
after having communicated with his family, that he thought he
might incur some unpleasantnesses if he entertained Laube. At
this the latter smiled, and in a manner I shall never forget,
though I have noticed in the course of my life that the
expression which I then saw in his face was one which has often
flitted over my own features. He took his leave, and in a short
time we heard that he had been arrested, owing to having
undertaken fresh proceedings against former members of the
Burschenschaft (Students' League), and had been lodged in the
municipal prison at Berlin. I had thus had two experiences which
weighed me down like lead, so I packed my scanty portmanteau,
took leave of my mother and sister, and, with a stout heart,
started on my career as a conductor.

In order to be able to look upon the little room under Minna's
lodging as my new home, I was forced also to make the best of
Bethmann's theatrical enterprise. As a matter of fact, a
performance of Don Juan was given at once, for the director, who
prided himself on being a connoisseur of things artistic,
suggested that opera to me as one with which it would be wise for
an aspiring young artist, of a good family, to make his debut.
Despite the fact that, apart from some of my own instrumental
compositions, I had never yet conducted, and least of all in
opera, the rehearsal and the performance went off fairly well.
Only once or twice did discrepancies appear in the recitative of
Donna Anna; yet this did not involve me in any kind of hostility,
and when I took my place unabashed and calm for the production of
Lumpaci Vagabundus, which I had practised very thoroughly, the
people generally seemed to have gained full confidence in the
theatre's new acquisition.

The fact that I submitted without bitterness and even with some
cheerfulness to this unworthy use of my musical talent, was due
less to my taste being at this period, as I called it, in its
salad days, than to my intercourse with Minna Planer, who was
employed in that magic trifle as the Amorous Fairy. Indeed, in
the midst of this dust-cloud of frivolity and vulgarity, she
always seemed very much like a fairy, the reasons of whose
descent into this giddy whirl, which of a truth seemed neither to
carry her away nor even to affect her, remained an absolute
mystery. For while I could discover nothing in the opera singers
save the familiar stage caricatures and grimaces, this fair
actress differed wholly from those about her in her unaffected
soberness and dainty modesty, as also in the absence of all
theatrical pretence and stiltedness. There was only one young man
whom I could place beside Minna on the ground of qualities like
those I recognised in her. This fellow was Friedrich Schmitt, who
had only just adopted the stage as a career in the hope of making
a 'hit' in opera, to which, as the possessor of an excellent
tenor voice, he felt himself called. He too differed from the
rest of the company, especially in the earnestness which he
brought to bear upon his studies and his work in general: the
soulful manly pitch of his chest voice, his clear, noble
enunciation and intelligent rendering of his words, have always
remained as standards in my memory. Owing to the fact that he was
wholly devoid of theatrical talent, and acted clumsily and
awkwardly, a check was soon put to his progress, but he always
remained dear to me as a clever and original man of trustworthy
and upright character--my only associate.

But my dealings with my kind housemate soon became a cherished
habit, while she returned the ingenuously impetuous advances of
the conductor of one-and-twenty with a certain tolerant
astonishment which, remote as it was from all coquetry and
ulterior motives, soon made familiar and friendly intercourse
possible with her. When, one evening, I returned late to my
ground-floor room, by climbing through the window, for I had no
latch-key, the noise of my entry brought Minna to her window just
over mine. Standing on my window ledge I begged her to allow me
to bid her good-night once more. She had not the slightest
objection to this, but declared it must be done from the window,
as she always had her door locked by the people of the house, and
nobody could get in that way. She kindly facilitated the
handshake by leaning far out of her window, so that I could take
her hand as I stood on my ledge. When later on I had an attack of
erysipelas, from which I often suffered, and with my face all
swollen and frightfully distorted concealed myself from the world
in my gloomy room, Minna visited me repeatedly, nursed me, and
assured me that my distorted features did not matter in the
least. On recovering, I paid her a visit and complained of a rash
that had remained round my mouth, and which seemed so unpleasant
that I apologised for showing it to her. This also she made light
of. Then I inferred she would not give me a kiss, whereupon she
at once gave me practical proof that she did not shrink from that

This was all done with a friendly serenity and composure that had
something almost motherly about it, and it was free from all
suggestion of frivolity or of heartlessness. In a few weeks the
company had to leave Lauchstadt to proceed to Rudolstadt and
fulfil a special engagement there. I was particularly anxious to
make this journey, which in those days was an arduous
undertaking, in Minna's company, and if only I had succeeded in
getting my well-earned salary duly paid by Bethmann, nothing
would have hindered the fulfilment of my wish. But in this matter
I encountered exceptional difficulties, which in the course of
eventful years grew in chronic fashion into the strangest of
ailments. Even at Lauchstadt I had discovered that there was only
one man who drew his salary in full, namely the bass Kneisel,
whom I had seen smoking his pipe beside the couch of the
director's lame wife. I was assured that if I cared greatly about
getting some of my wages from time to time, I could obtain this
favour only by paying court to Mme. Bethmann. This time I
preferred once more to appeal to my family for help, and
therefore travelled to Rudolstadt through Leipzig, where, to the
sad astonishment of my mother, I had to replenish my coffer with
the necessary supplies. On the way to Leipzig I had travelled
with Apel through his estate, he having fetched me from
Lauchstadt for the purpose. His arrival was fixed in my memory by
a noisy banquet which my wealthy friend gave at the hotel in my
honour. It was on this occasion that I and one of the other
guests succeeded in completely destroying a huge, massively built
Dutch-tile stove, such as we had in our room at the inn. Next
morning none of us could understand how it had happened.

It was on this journey to Rudolstadt that I first passed through
Weimar, where on a rainy day I strolled with curiosity, but
without emotion, towards Goethe's house. I had pictured something
rather different, and thought I should experience livelier
impressions from the active theatre life of Rudolstadt, to which
I felt strongly attracted. In spite of the fact that I was not to
be conductor myself, this post having been entrusted to the
leader of the royal orchestra, who had been specially engaged for
our performances, yet I was so fully occupied with rehearsals for
the many operas and musical comedies required to regale the
frivolous public of the principality that I found no leisure for
excursions into the charming regions of this little land. In
addition to these severe and ill-paid labours, two passions held
me chained during the six weeks of my stay in Rudolstadt. These
were, first, a longing to write the libretto of Liebesverbot; and
secondly, my growing attachment to Minna. It is true, I sketched
out a musical composition about this time, a symphony in E major,
whose first movement (3/4 time) I completed as a separate piece.
As regards style and design, this work was suggested by
Beethoven's Seventh and Eighth Symphonies, and, so far as I can
remember, I should have had no need to be ashamed of it, had I
been able to complete it, or keep the part I had actually
finished. But I had already begun at this time to form the
opinion that, to produce anything fresh and truly noteworthy in
the realm of symphony, and according to Beethoven's methods, was
an impossibility. Whereas opera, to which I felt inwardly drawn,
though I had no real example I wished to copy, presented itself
to my mind in varied and alluring shapes as a most fascinating
form of art. Thus, amid manifold and passionate agitations, and
in the few leisure hours which were left to me, I completed the
greater part of my operatic poem, taking infinitely more pains,
both as regards words and versification, than with the text of my
earlier Feen. Moreover, I found myself possessed of incomparably
greater assurance in the arrangement and partial invention of
situations than when writing that earlier work.

On the other hand, I now began for the first time to experience
the cares and worries of a lover's jealousy. A change, to me
inexplicable, manifested itself in Minna's hitherto unaffected
and gentle manner towards me. It appears that my artless
solicitations for her favour, by which at that time I meant
nothing serious, and in which a man of the world would merely
have seen the exuberance of a youthful and easily satisfied
infatuation, had given rise to certain remarks and comments upon
the popular actress. I was astonished to learn, first from her
reserved manner, and later from her own lips, that she felt
compelled to inquire into the seriousness of my intentions, and
to consider their consequences. She was at that time, as I had
already discovered, on very intimate terms with a young nobleman,
whose acquaintance I first made in Lauchstadt, where he used to
visit her. I had already realised on that occasion that he was
unfeignedly and cordially attached to her; in fact, in the circle
of her friends she was regarded as engaged to Herr von O.,
although it was obvious that marriage was out of the question, as
the young lover was quite without means, and owing to the high
standing of his family it was essential that he should sacrifice
himself to a marriage of convenience, both on account of his
social position and of the career which he would have to adopt.
During this stay at Rudolstadt Minna appears to have gathered
certain information on this point which troubled and depressed
her, thus rendering her more inclined to treat my impetuous
attempts at courtship with cool reserve.

After mature deliberation I recognised that, in any case, Young
Europe, Ardinghello, and Liebesverbot could not be produced at
Rudolstadt; but it was a very different matter for the Fee
Amorosa, with its merry theatrical mood, and an Ehrlicher Burger
Kind to seek a decent livelihood. Therefore, greatly discouraged,
I proceeded to accentuate the more extravagant situations of my
Liebesverbot by rioting with a few comrades in the sausage-
scented atmosphere of the Rudolstadt Vogelwiese. At this time my
troubles again brought me more or less into contact with the vice
of gambling, although on this occasion it only cast temporary
fetters about me in the very harmless form of the dice and
roulette-tables out on the open market-place.

We were looking forward to the time when we should leave
Rudolstadt for the half-yearly winter season at the capital,
Magdeburg, mainly because I should there resume my place at the
head of the orchestra, and might in any case count on a better
reward for my musical efforts. But before returning to Magdeburg
I had to endure a trying interval at Bernburg, where Bethmann,
the director, in addition to his other undertakings, had also
promised sundry theatrical performances. During our brief stay in
the town I had to arrange for the presentation, with a mere
fraction of the company, of several operas, which were again to
be conducted by the royal conductor of the place. But in addition
to these professional labours, I had to endure such a meagre,
ill-provided and grievously farcical existence as was enough to
disgust me, if not for ever, at any rate for the time being, with
the wretched profession of a theatrical conductor. Yet I survived
even this, and Magdeburg was destined to lead me eventually to
the real glory of my adopted profession.

The sensation of sitting in command at the very conductor's desk
from which, not many years before, the great master Kuhnlein had
so moved the perplexed young enthusiast by the weighty wisdom of
his musical directorship, was not without its charm for me, and,
indeed, I very quickly succeeded in obtaining perfect confidence
in conducting an orchestra. I was soon a persona grata with the
excellent musicians of the orchestra. Their splendid combination
in spirited overtures, which, especially towards the finale, I
generally took at an unheard-of speed, often earned for us all
the intoxicating applause of the public. The achievements of my
fiery and often exuberant zeal won me recognition from the
singers, and were greeted by the audience with rapturous
appreciation. As in Magdeburg, at least in those days, the art of
theatrical criticism was but slightly developed, this universal
satisfaction was a great encouragement, and at the end of the
first three months of my Magdeburg conductorship I felt sustained
by the flattering and comforting assurance that I was one of the
bigwigs of opera. Under these circumstances, Schmale, the stage
manager, who has been my good friend ever since, proposed a
special gala performance for New Year's Day, which he felt sure
would be a triumph. I was to compose the necessary music. This
was very speedily done; a rousing overture, several melodramas
and choruses were all greeted with enthusiasm, and brought us
such ample applause that we repeated the performance with great
success, although such repetitions after the actual gala day were
quite contrary to usage.

With the new year (1835) there came a decisive turning-point in
my life. After the rupture between Minna and myself at
Rudolstadt, we had been to some extent lost to one another; but
our friendship was resumed on our meeting again in Magdeburg;
this time, however, it remained cool and purposely indifferent.
When she first appeared in the town, a year before, her beauty
had attracted considerable notice, and I now learned that she was
the object of great attention from several young noblemen, and
had shown herself not unmoved by the compliment implied by their
visits. Although her reputation, thanks to her absolute
discretion and self-respect, remained beyond reproach, my
objection to her receiving such attentions grew very strong,
owing possibly, in some degree, to the memory of the sorrows I
had endured in Pachta's house in Prague. Although Minna assured
me that the conduct of these gentlemen was much more discreet and
decent than that of theatre-goers of the bourgeois class, and
especially than that of certain young musical conductors, she
never succeeded in soothing the bitterness and insistence with
which I protested against her acceptance of such attentions. So
we spent three unhappy months in ever-increasing estrangement,
and at the same time, in half-frantic despair, I pretended to be
fond of the most undesirable associates, and acted in every way
with such blatant levity that Minna, as she told me afterwards,
was filled with the deepest anxiety and solicitude concerning me.
Moreover, as the ladies of the opera company were not slow to pay
court to their youthful conductor, and especially as one young
woman, whose reputation was not spotless, openly set her cap at
me, this anxiety of Minna's seems at last to have culminated in a
definite decision. I hit upon the idea of treating the elite of
our opera company to oysters and punch in my own room on New
Year's Eve. The married couples were invited, and then came the
question whether Fraulein Planer would consent to take part in
such a festivity. She accepted quite ingenuously, and presented
herself, as neatly and becomingly dressed as ever, in my bachelor
apartments, where things soon grew pretty lively. I had already
warned my landlord that we were not likely to be very quiet, and
reassured him as to any possible damage to his furniture. What
the champagne failed to accomplish, the punch eventually
succeeded in doing; all the restraints of petty conventionality,
which the company usually endeavoured to observe, were cast
aside, giving place to an unreserved demeanour all round, to
which no one objected. And then it was that Minna's queenly
dignity distinguished her from all her companions. She never lost
her self-respect; and whilst no one ventured to take the
slightest liberty with her, every one very clearly recognised the
simple candour with which she responded to my kindly and
solicitous attentions. They could not fail to see that the link
existing between us was not to be compared to any ordinary
liaison, and we had the satisfaction of seeing the flighty young
lady who had so openly angled for me fall into a fit over the

From that time onward I remained permanently on the best of terms
with Minna. I do not believe that she ever felt any sort of
passion or genuine love for me, or, indeed, that she was capable
of such a thing, and I can therefore only describe her feeling
for me as one of heartfelt goodwill, and the sincerest desire for
my success and prosperity, inspired as she was with the kindest
sympathy, and genuine delight at, and admiration for, my talents.
All this at last became part of her nature. She obviously had a
very favourable opinion of my abilities, though she was surprised
at the rapidity of my success. My eccentric nature, which she
knew so well how to humour pleasantly by her gentleness,
stimulated her to the continual exercise of the power, so
flattering to her own vanity, and without ever betraying any
desire or ardour herself, she never met my impetuous advances
with coldness.

At the Magdeburg theatre I had already made the acquaintance of a
very interesting woman called Mme. Haas. She was an actress, no
longer in her first youth, and played so-called 'chaperone's
parts.' This lady won my sympathy by telling me she had been
friendly ever since her youth with Laube, in whose destiny she
continued to take a heartfelt and cordial interest. She was
clever, but far from happy, and an unprepossessing exterior,
which with the lapse of years grew more uninviting, did not tend
to make her any happier. She lived in meagre circumstances, with
one child, and appeared to remember her better days with a bitter
grief. My first visit to her was paid merely to inquire after
Laube's fate, but I soon became a frequent and familiar caller.
As she and Minna speedily became fast friends, we three often
spent pleasant evenings talking together. But when, later on, a
certain jealousy manifested itself on the part of the elder woman
towards the younger, our confidential relations were more or less
disturbed, for it particularly grieved me to hear Minna's talents
and mental gifts criticised by the other. One evening I had
promised Minna to have tea with her and Mme. Haas, but I had
thoughtlessly promised to go to a whist party first. This
engagement I purposely prolonged, much as it wearied me, in the
deliberate hope that her companion--who had already grown irksome
to me--might have left before my arrival. The only way in which I
could do this was by drinking hard, so that I had the very
unusual experience of rising from a sober whist party in a
completely fuddled condition, into which I had imperceptibly
fallen, and in which I refused to believe. This incredulity
deluded me into keeping my engagement for tea, although it was so
late. To my intense disgust the elder woman was still there when
I arrived, and her presence at once had the effect of rousing my
tipsiness to a violent outbreak; for she seemed astonished at my
rowdy and unseemly behaviour, and made several remarks upon it
intended for jokes, whereupon I scoffed at her in the coarsest
manner, so that she immediately left the house in high dudgeon. I
had still sense enough to be conscious of Minna's astonished
laughter at my outrageous conduct. As soon as she realised,
however, that my condition was such as to render my removal
impossible without great commotion, she rapidly formed a
resolution which must indeed have cost her an effort, though it
was carried out with the utmost calmness and good-humour. She did
all she could for me, and procured me the necessary relief, and
when I sank into a heavy slumber, unhesitatingly resigned her own
bed to my use. There I slept until awakened by the wonderful grey
of dawn. On recognising where I was, I at once realised and grew
ever more convinced of the fact that this morning's sunrise
marked the starting-point of an infinitely momentous period of my
life. The demon of care had at last entered into my existence.

Without any light-hearted jests, without gaiety or joking of any
description, we breakfasted quietly and decorously together, and
at an hour when, in view of the compromising circumstances of the
previous evening, we could set out without attracting undue
notice, I set off with Minna for a long walk beyond the city
gates. Then we parted, and from that day forward freely and
openly gratified our desires as an acknowledged pair of lovers.

The peculiar direction which my musical activities had gradually
taken continued to receive ever fresh impetus, not only from the
successes, but also from the disasters which about this time
befell my efforts. I produced the overture to my Feen with very
satisfactory results at a concert given by the Logengesellschaft,
and thereby earned considerable applause. On the other hand, news
came from Leipzig confirming the shabby action of the directors
of the theatre in that place with regard to the promised
presentation of this opera. But, happily for me, I had begun the
music for my Liebesverbot, an occupation which so absorbed my
thoughts that I lost all interest in the earlier work, and
abstained with proud indifference from all further effort to
secure its performance in Leipzig. The success of its overture
alone amply repaid me for the composition of my first opera.

Meanwhile, in spite of numerous other distractions, I found time,
during the brief six months of this theatrical season in
Magdeburg, to complete a large portion of my new opera, besides
doing other work. I ventured to introduce two duets from it at a
concert given in the theatre, and their reception encouraged me
to proceed hopefully with the rest of the opera.

During the second half of this season my friend Apel came to sun
himself enthusiastically in the splendour of my musical
directorship. He had written a drama, Columbus, which I
recommended to our management for production. This was a
peculiarly easy favour to win, as Apel volunteered to have a new
scene, representing the Alhambra, painted at his own expense.
Besides this, he proposed to effect many welcome improvements in
the condition of the actors taking part in his play; for, owing
to the continued preference displayed by the directress for
Kneisel, the bass, they had all suffered very much from
uncertainty about their wages. The piece itself appeared to me to
contain much that was good. It described the difficulties and
struggles of the great navigator before he set sail on his first
voyage of discovery. The drama ended with the momentous departure
of his ships from the harbour of Palos, an episode whose results
are known to all the world. At my desire Apel submitted his play
to my uncle Adolph, and even in his critical opinion it was
remarkable for its lively and characteristic popular scenes. On
the other hand, a love romance, which he had woven into the plot,
struck me as unnecessary and dull. In addition to a brief chorus
for some Moors who were expelled from Granada, to be sung on
their departure from the familiar home country, and a short
orchestral piece by way of conclusion, I also dashed off an
overture for my friend's play. I sketched out the complete draft
of this one evening at Minna's house, while Apel was left free to
talk to her as much and as loudly as he liked. The effect this
composition was calculated to produce rested on a fundamental
idea which was quite simple, yet startling in its development.
Unfortunately I worked it out rather hurriedly. In not very
carefully chosen phrasing the orchestra was to represent the
ocean, and, as far as might be, the ship upon it. A forcible,
pathetically yearning and aspiring theme was the only
comprehensible idea amid the swirl of enveloping sound. When the
whole had been repeated, there was a sudden jump to a different
theme in extreme pianissimo, accompanied by the swelling
vibrations of the first violins, which was intended to represent
a Fata Morgana. I had secured three pairs of trumpets in
different keys, in order to produce this exquisite, gradually
dawning and seductive theme with the utmost niceties of shade and
variety of modulation. This was intended to represent the land of
desire towards which the hero's eyes are turned, and whose shores
seem continually to rise before him only to sink elusively
beneath the waves, until at last they soar in very deed above the
western horizon, the crown of all his toil and search, and stand
clearly and unmistakably revealed to all the sailors, a vast
continent of the future. My six trumpets were now to combine in
one key, in order that the theme assigned to them might re-echo
in glorious jubilation. Familiar as I was with the excellence of
the Prussian regimental trumpeters, I could rely upon a startling
effect, especially in this concluding passage. My overture
astonished every one, and was tumultuously applauded. The play
itself, however, was acted without dignity. A conceited comedian,
named Ludwig Meyer, completely ruined the title part, for which
he excused himself on the ground that, having to act as stage
manager also, he had been unable to commit his lines to memory.
Nevertheless, he managed to enrich his wardrobe with several
splendid costumes at Apel's expense, wearing them, as Columbus,
one after the other. At all events, Apel had lived to see a play
of his own actually performed, and although this was never
repeated, yet it afforded me an opportunity of increasing my
personal popularity with the people of Magdeburg, as the overture
was several times repeated at concerts by special request.

But the chief event of this theatrical season occurred towards
its close. I induced Mme. Schroder-Devrient, who was staying in
Leipzig, to come to us for a few special performances, when, on
two occasions, I had the great satisfaction and stimulating
experience of myself conducting the operas in which she sang, and
thus entering into immediate artistic collaboration with her. She
appeared as Desdemona and Romeo. In the latter role particularly
she surpassed herself, and kindled a fresh flame in my breast.
This visit brought us also into closer personal contact. So
kindly disposed and sympathetic did she show herself towards me,
that she even volunteered to lend me her services at a concert
which I proposed to give for my own benefit, although this would
necessitate her returning after a brief absence. Under
circumstances so auspicious I could only expect the best possible
results from my concert, and in my situation at that time its
proceeds were a matter of vital importance to me. My scanty
salary from the Magdeburg opera company had become altogether
illusory, being paid only in small and irregular instalments, so
that I could see but one way of meeting my daily expenses. These
included frequent entertainment of a large circle of friends,
consisting of singers and players, and the situation had become
unpleasantly accentuated by no small number of debts. True, I did
not know their exact amount; but reckoned that I could at least
form an advantageous, if indefinite, estimate of the sum to be
realized by my concert, whereby the two unknown quantities might
balance each other. I therefore consoled my creditors with the
tale of these fabulous receipts, which were to pay them all in
full the day after the concert. I even went so far as to invite
them to come and be paid at the hotel to which I had moved at the
close of the season.

And, indeed, there was nothing unreasonable in my counting on the
highest imaginable receipts, when supported by so great and
popular a singer, who, moreover, was returning to Magdeburg on
purpose for the event. I consequently acted with reckless
prodigality as regards cost, launching out into all manner of
musical extravagance, such as engaging an excellent and much
larger orchestra, and arranging many rehearsals. Unfortunately
for me, however, nobody would believe that such a famous actress,
whose time was so precious, would really return again to please a
little Magdeburg conductor. My pompous announcement of her
appearance was almost universally regarded as a deceitful
manoeuvre, and people took offence at the high prices charged for
seats. The result was that the hall was only very scantily
filled, a fact which particularly grieved me on account of my
generous patroness. Her promise I had never doubted. Punctually
on the day appointed she reappeared to support me, and now had
the painful and unaccustomed experience of performing before a
small audience. Fortunately, she treated the matter with great
good-humour (which, I learned later, was prompted by other
motives, not personally concerning me). Among several pieces she
sang Beethoven's Adelaide most exquisitely, wherein, to my own
astonishment, I accompanied her on the piano. But, alas! another
and more unexpected mishap befell my concert, through our
unfortunate selection of pieces. Owing to the excessive
reverberation of the saloon in the Hotel 'The City of London,'
the noise was unbearable. My Columbus Overture, with its six
trumpets, had early in the evening filled the audience with
terror; and now, at the end, came Beethoven's Schlacht bei
Vittoria, for which, in enthusiastic expectation of limitless
receipts, I had provided every imaginable orchestral luxury. The
firing of cannon and musketry was organised with the utmost
elaboration, on both the French and English sides, by means of
specially constructed and costly apparatus; while trumpets and
bugles had been doubled and trebled. Then began a battle, such as
has seldom been more cruelly fought in a concert-room. The
orchestra flung itself, so to speak, upon the scanty audience
with such an overwhelming superiority of numbers that the latter
speedily gave up all thought of resistance and literally took to
flight. Mme. Schroder-Devrient had kindly taken a front seat,
that she might hear the concert to an end. Much as she may have
been inured to terrors of this kind, this was more than she could
stand, even out of friendship for me. When, therefore, the
English made a fresh desperate assault upon the French position,
she took to flight, almost wringing her hands. Her action became
the signal for a panic-stricken stampede. Every one rushed out;
and Wellington's victory was finally celebrated in a confidential
outburst between myself and the orchestra alone. Thus ended this
wonderful musical festival. Schroder-Devrient at once departed,
deeply regretting the ill-success of her well-meant effort, and
kindly left me to my fate. After seeking comfort in the arms of
my sorrowing sweetheart, and attempting to nerve myself for the
morrow's battle, which did not seem likely to end in a victorious
symphony, I returned next morning to the hotel. I found I could
only reach my rooms by running the gauntlet between long rows of
men and women in double file, who had all been specially invited
thither for the settlement of their respective affairs. Reserving
the right to select individuals from among my visitors for
separate interview, I first of all led in the second trumpeter of
the orchestra, whose duty it had been to look after the cash and
the music. From his account I learned that, owing to the high
fees which, in my generous enthusiasm, I had promised to the
orchestra, a few more shillings and sixpences would still have to
come out of my own pocket to meet these charges alone. When this
was settled, the position of affairs was plain. The next person I
invited to come in was Mme. Gottschalk, a trustworthy Jewess,
with whom I wanted to come to some arrangement respecting the
present crisis. She perceived at once that more than ordinary
help was required in this case, but did not doubt that I should
be able to obtain it from my opulent connections in Leipzig. She
undertook, therefore, to appease the other creditors with
tranquillising assurances, and railed, or pretended to rail,
against their indecent conduct with great vigour. Thus at last we
succeeded, though not without some difficulty, in making the
corridor outside my door once more passable.

The theatrical season was now over, our company on the point of
dissolution, and I myself free from my appointment. But meanwhile
the unhappy director of our theatre had passed from a state of
chronic to one of acute bankruptcy. He paid with paper money,
that is to say, with whole sheets of box-tickets for performances
which he guaranteed should take place. By dint of great craft
Minna managed to extract some profit even from these singular
treasury-bonds. She was living at this time most frugally and
economically. Moreover, as the dramatic company still continued
its efforts on behalf of its members--only the opera troupe
having been dissolved--she remained at the theatre. Thus, when I
started out on my compulsory return to Leipzig, she saw me off
with hearty good-wishes for our speedy reunion, promising to
spend the next holidays in visiting her parents in Dresden, on
which occasion she hoped also to look me up in Leipzig.

Thus it came about that early in May I once more went home to my
own folk, in order that after this abortive first attempt at
civic independence, I might finally lift the load of debt with
which my efforts in Magdeburg had burdened me. An intelligent
brown poodle faithfully accompanied me, and was entrusted to my
family for food and entertainment as the only visible property I
had acquired. Nevertheless, my mother and Rosalie succeeded in
founding good hopes for my future career upon the bare fact of my
being able to conduct an orchestra. To me, on the other hand, the
thought of returning once more to my former life with my family
was very discomfiting. My relation to Minna in particular spurred
me on to resume my interrupted career as speedily as possible.
The great change which had come over me in this respect was more
apparent than ever when Minna spent a few days with me in Leipzig
on her way home. Her familiar and genial presence proclaimed that
my days of parental dependence were past and gone. We discussed
the renewal of my Magdeburg engagement, and I promised her an
early visit in Dresden. I obtained permission from my mother and
sister to invite her one evening to tea, and in this way I
introduced her to my family. Rosalie saw at once how matters
stood with me, but made no further use of the discovery than to
tease me about being in love. To her the affair did not appear
dangerous; but to me things wore a very different aspect, for
this love-lorn attachment was entirely in keeping with my
independent spirit, and my ambition to win myself a place in the
world of art.

My distaste for Leipzig itself was furthermore strengthened by a
change which occurred there at this time in the realm of music.
At the very time that I, in Magdeburg, was attempting to make my
reputation as a musical conductor by thoughtless submission to
the frivolous taste of the day, Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was
conducting the Gewandhaus concerts, and inaugurating a momentous
epoch for himself and the musical taste of Leipzig. His influence
had put an end to the simple ingenuousness with which the Leipzig
public had hitherto judged the productions of its sociable
subscription concerts. Through the influence of my good old
friend Pohlenz, who was not yet altogether laid on the shelf, I
managed to produce my Columbus Overture at a benefit concert
given by the favourite young singer, Livia Gerhart. But, to my
amazement, I found that the taste of the musical public in
Leipzig had been given a different bent, which not even my
rapturously applauded overture, with its brilliant combination of
six trumpets, could influence. This experience deepened my
dislike of everything approaching a classical tone, in which
sentiment I found myself in complete accord with honest Pohlenz,
who sighed good-naturedly over the downfall of the good old

Arrangements for a musical festival at Dessau, under Friedrich
Schneider's conductorship, offered me a welcome chance of
quitting Leipzig. For this journey, which could be performed on
foot in seven hours, I had to procure a passport for eight days.
This document was destined to play an important part in my life
for many years to come; for on several occasions and in various
European countries it was the only paper I possessed to prove my
identity. In fact, owing to my evasion of military duty in
Saxony, I never again succeeded in obtaining a regular pass until
I was appointed musical conductor in Dresden. I derived very
little artistic pleasure or benefit of any kind from this
occasion; on the contrary, it gave a fresh impetus to my hatred
of the classical. I heard Beethoven's Symphony in C minor
conducted by a man whose physiognomy, resembling that of a
drunken satyr, filled me with unconquerable disgust. In spite of
an interminable row of contrabassi, with which a conductor
usually coquettes at musical festivals, his performance was so
expressionless and inane that I turned away in disgust as from an
alarming and repulsive problem, and desisted from all attempts to
explain the impassable gulf which, as I again perceived, yawned
between my own vivid and imaginative conception of this work and
the only living presentations of it which I had ever heard. But
for the present my tormented spirits were cheered and calmed by
hearing the classical Schneider's oratorio Absalom rendered as an
absolute burlesque.

It was in Dessau that Minna had made her first debut on the
stage, and while there I heard her spoken of by frivolous young
men in the tone usual in such circles when discussing young and
beautiful actresses. My eagerness in contradicting this chatter
and confounding the scandalmongers revealed to me more clearly
than ever the strength of the passion which drew me to her.

I therefore returned to Leipzig without calling on my relatives,
and there procured means for an immediate journey to Dresden. On
the way (the journey was still performed by express coach) I met
Minna, accompanied by one of her sisters, already on the way back
to Magdeburg. Promptly procuring a posting ticket for the return
journey to Leipzig, I actually set off thither with my dear girl;
but by the time we reached the next station I had succeeded in
persuading her to turn back with me to Dresden. By this time the
mail-coach was far ahead of us, and we had to travel by special
post-chaise. This lively bustling to and fro seemed to astonish
the two girls, and put them into high spirits. The extravagance
of my conduct had evidently roused them to the expectation of
adventures, and it now behoved me to fulfil this expectation.
Procuring from a Dresden acquaintance the necessary cash, I
conducted my two lady friends through the Saxon Alps, where we
spent several right merry days of innocent and youthful gaiety.
Only once was this disturbed by a passing fit of jealousy on my
part, for which, indeed, there was no occasion, but which fed
itself in my heart on a nervous apprehension of the future, and
upon the experience I had already gained of womenkind. Yet,
despite this blot, our excursion still lingers in my memory as
the sweetest and almost sole remembrance of unalloyed happiness
in the whole of my life as a young man. One evening in particular
stands out in bright relief, during which we sat together almost
all night at the watering-place of Schandau in glorious summer
weather. Indeed, my subsequent long and anxious connection with
Minna, interwoven as it was with the most painful and bitter
vicissitudes, has often appeared to me as a persistently
prolonged expiation of the brief and harmless enjoyment of those
few days.

After accompanying Minna to Leipzig, whence she continued her
journey to Magdeburg, I presented myself to my family, but told
them nothing of my Dresden excursion. I now braced my energies,
as though under the stern compulsion of a strange and deep sense
of duty, to the task of making such arrangements as would
speedily restore me to my dear one's side. To this end a fresh
engagement had to be negotiated with Director Bethmann for the
coming winter season. Unable to await the conclusion of our
contract in Leipzig, I availed myself of Laube's presence at the
baths in Kosen, near Naumburg, to pay him a visit. Laube had only
recently been discharged from the Berlin municipal gaol, after a
tormenting inquisition of nearly a year's duration. On giving his
parole not to leave the country until the verdict had been given,
he had been permitted to retire to Kosen, from which place he,
one evening, paid us a secret visit in Leipzig. I can still call
his woebegone appearance to mind. He seemed hopelessly resigned,
though he spoke cheerfully with regard to all his earlier dreams
of better things; and owing to my own worries at that time about
the critical state of my affairs, this impression still remains
one of my saddest and most painful recollections. While at Kosen
I showed him a good many of the verses for my Liebesverbot, and
although he spoke coldly of my presumption in wishing to write my
own libretto, I was slightly encouraged by his appreciation of my

Meanwhile I impatiently awaited letters from Magdeburg. Not that
I had any doubt as to the renewal of my engagement; on the
contrary, I had every reason to regard myself as a good
acquisition for Bethmann; but I felt as though nothing which
tended to bring me nearer to Minna could move fast enough. As
soon as I received the necessary tidings, I hurried away to make
all needful arrangements on the spot for ensuring a magnificent
success in the coming Magdeburg operatic season.

Through the tireless munificence of the King of Prussia fresh and
final assistance had been granted to our perennially bankrupt
theatrical director. His Majesty had assigned a not
inconsiderable sum to a committee consisting of substantial
Magdeburg citizens, as a subsidy to be expended on the theatre
under Bethmann's management. What this meant, and the respect
with which I thereupon regarded the artistic conditions of
Magdeburg, may be best imagined if one remembers the neglected
and forlorn surroundings amid which such provincial theatres
usually drag out their lives. I offered at once to undertake a
long journey in search of good operatic singers. I said I would
find the means for this at my own risk, and the only guarantee I
demanded from the management for eventual reimbursement was that
they should assign me the proceeds of a future benefit
performance. This offer was gladly accepted, and in pompous tones
the director furnished me with the necessary powers, and moreover
gave me his parting blessing. During this brief interval I lived
once more in intimate communion with Minna--who now had her
mother with her--and then took fresh leave of her for my
venturesome enterprise.

But when I got to Leipzig I found it by no means easy to procure
the funds, so confidently counted on when in Magdeburg, for the
expenses of my projected journey. The glamour of the royal
protection of Prussia for our theatrical undertaking, which I
portrayed in the liveliest colours to my good brother-in-law
Brockhaus, quite failed to dazzle him, and it was at the cost of
great pains and humiliation that I finally got my ship of
discovery under weigh.

I was naturally drawn first of all to my old wonderland of
Bohemia. There I merely touched at Prague and, without visiting
my lovely lady friends, I hurried forward so that I might first
sample the opera company then playing for the season at Karlsbad.
Impatient to discover as many talents as I could as soon as
possible, so as not to exhaust my funds to no purpose, I attended
a performance of La Dame Blanche, sincerely hoping to find the
whole performance first class. But not until much later did I
fully realise how wretched was the quality of all these singers.
I selected one of them, a bass named Graf, who was singing
Gaveston. When in due course he made his debut at Magdeburg, he
provoked so much well-founded dissatisfaction, that I could not
find a word to say in reply to the mockery which this acquisition
brought upon me.

But the small success with which the real object of my tour was
attended was counterbalanced by the pleasantness of the journey
itself. The trip through Eger, over the Fichtel mountains, and
the entry into Bayreuth, gloriously illuminated by the setting
sun, have remained happy memories to this day.

My next goal was Nuremberg, where my sister Clara and her husband
were acting, and from whom I might reckon on sound information as
to the object of my search. It was particularly nice to be
hospitably received in my sister's house, where I hoped to revive
my somewhat exhausted means of travel. In this hope I reckoned
chiefly upon the sale of a snuff-box presented to me by a friend,
which I had secret reasons to suppose was made of platinum. To
this I could add a gold signet-ring, given me by my friend Apel
for composing the overture to his Columbus. The value of the
snuff-box unfortunately proved to be entirely imaginary; but by
pawning these two jewels, the only ones I had left, I hoped to
provide myself with the bare necessaries for continuing my
journey to Frankfort. It was to this place and the Rhine district
that the information I had gathered led me to direct my steps.
Before leaving I persuaded my sister and brother-in-law to accept
engagements in Magdeburg; but I still lacked a first tenor and a
soprano, whom hitherto I had altogether failed to discover.

My stay in Nuremberg was most agreeably prolonged through a
renewed meeting with Schroder-Devrient, who just at that time was
fulfilling a short engagement in that town. Meeting her again was
like seeing the clouds disperse, which, since our last meeting,
had darkened my artistic horizon.

The Nuremberg operatic company had a very limited repertoire.
Besides Fidelio they could produce nothing save Die
Schweizerfamilie, a fact about which this great singer
complained, as this was one of her first parts sung in early
youth, for which she was hardly any longer suited, and which, in
addition, she had played ad nauseam. I also looked forward to the
performance of Die Schweizerfamilie with misgivings, and even
with anxiety, for I feared lest this tame opera and the old-
fashioned sentimental part of Emmeline would weaken the great
impression the public, as well as myself, had formed up to that
moment of the work of this sublime artist. Imagine, therefore,
how deeply moved and astonished I was, on the evening of the
performance, to find that it was in this very part that I first
realised the truly transcendental genius of this extraordinary
woman. That anything so great as her interpretation of the
character of the Swiss maiden could not be handed down to
posterity as a monument for all time can only be looked upon as
one of the most sublime sacrifices demanded by dramatic art, and
as one of its highest manifestations. When, therefore, such
phenomena appear, we cannot hold them in too great reverence, nor
look upon them as too sacred.

Apart from all these new experiences which were to become of so
much value to my whole life and to my artistic development, the
impressions I received at Nuremberg, though they were apparently
trivial in their origin, left such indelible traces on my mind,
that they revived within me later on, though in quite a different
and novel form.

My brother-in-law, Wolfram, was a great favourite with the
Nuremberg theatrical world; he was witty and sociable, and as
such made himself much liked in theatrical circles. On this
occasion I received singularly delightful proofs of the spirit of
extravagant gaiety manifested on these evenings at the inn, in
which I also took part. A master carpenter, named Lauermann, a
little thick-set man, no longer young, of comical appearance and
gifted only with the roughest dialect, was pointed out to me in
one of the inns visited by our friends as one of those oddities
who involuntarily contributed most to the amusement of the local
wags. Lauermann, it seems, imagined himself an excellent singer,
and as a result of this presumption, evinced interest only in
those in whom he thought he recognised a like talent. In spite of
the fact that, owing to this singular peculiarity, he became the
butt of constant jest and scornful mockery, he never failed to
appear every evening among his laughter-loving persecutors. So
often had he been laughed at and hurt by their scorn, that it
became very difficult to persuade him to give a display of his
artistic skill, and this at last could only be effected by
artfully devised traps, so laid as to appeal to his vanity. My
arrival as an unknown stranger was utilised for a manoeuvre of
this kind. How poor was the opinion they held of the unfortunate
mastersinger's judgment was revealed when, to my great amazement,
my brother-in-law introduced me to him as the great Italian
singer, Lablache. To his credit I must confess that Lauermann
surveyed me for a long time with incredulous distrust, and
commented with cautious suspicion on my juvenile appearance, but
especially on the evidently tenor character of my voice. But the
whole art of these tavern associates and their principal
enjoyment consisted in leading this poor enthusiast to believe
the incredible, a task on which they spared neither time nor

My brother-in-law succeeded in making the carpenter believe that
I, while receiving fabulous sums for my performances, wished by a
singular act of dissimulation, and by visiting public inns, to
withdraw from the general public; and that, moreover, when it
came to a meeting between 'Lauermann' and 'Lablache,' the only
real interest could be to hear Lauermann and not Lablache, seeing
that the former had nothing to learn from the latter, but only
Lablache from him. So singular was the conflict between
incredulity, on the one hand, and keenly excited vanity on the
other, that finally the poor carpenter became really attractive
to me. I began to play the role assigned me with all the skill I
could command, and after a couple of hours, which were relieved
by the strangest antics, we at last gained our end. The wondrous
mortal, whose flashing eyes had long been fixed on me in the
greatest excitement, worked his muscles in the peculiarly
fantastic fashion which we are accustomed to associate with a
music-making automaton, the mechanism of which has been duly
wound up: his lips quivered, his teeth gnashed, his eyes rolled
convulsively, until finally there broke forth, in a hoarse oily
voice, an uncommonly trivial street-ballad. Its delivery,
accompanied by a regular movement of his outstretched thumbs
behind the ears, and during which his fat face glowed the
brightest red, was unhappily greeted with a wild burst of
laughter from all present, which excited the unlucky master to
the most furious wrath. With studied cruelty this wrath was
greeted by those, who until then had shamelessly flattered him,
with the most extravagant mockery, until the poor wretch at last
absolutely foamed with rage.

As he was leaving the inn amid a hail of curses from his infamous
friends, an impulse of genuine pity prompted me to follow him,
that I might beg his forgiveness and seek in some way to pacify
him, a task all the more difficult since he was especially bitter
against me as the latest of his enemies, and the one who had so
deeply deceived his eager hope of hearing the genuine Lablache.
Nevertheless, I succeeded in stopping him on the threshold; and
now the riotous company silently entered into an extraordinary
conspiracy to induce Lauermann to sing again that very evening.
How they managed this I can as little remember as I can call to
mind the effect of the spirituous liquors I imbibed. In any case,
I suspect that drink must eventually have been the means of
subduing Lauermann, just as it also rendered my own recollections
of the wonderful events of that prolonged evening at the inn
extremely vague. After Lauermann had for the second time suffered
the same mockery, the whole company felt itself bound to
accompany the unhappy man to his home. They carried him thither
in a wheelbarrow, which they found outside the house, and in this
he arrived, in triumph, at his own door, in one of those
marvellous narrow alleys peculiar to the old city. Frau
Lauermann, who was aroused from slumber to receive her husband,
enabled us, by her torrent of curses, to form some idea of the
nature of their marital and domestic relations. Mockery of her
husband's vocal talents was with her also a familiar theme; but
to this she now added the most dreadful reproaches for the
worthless scamps who, by encouraging him in this delusion, kept
him from profitably following his trade, and even led him to such
scenes as the present one. Thereupon the pride of the suffering
mastersinger reasserted itself; for while his wife painfully
assisted him to mount the stairs, he harshly denied her right to
sit in judgment upon his vocal gifts, and sternly ordered her to
be silent. But even now this wonderful night-adventure was by no
means over. The entire swarm moved once more in the direction of
the inn. Before the house, however, we found a number of fellows
congregated, among them several workmen, against whom, owing to
police regulations as to closing hours, the doors were shut. But
the regular guests of the house, who were of our party, and who
were on terms of old friendship with the host, thought that it
was nevertheless permissible and possible to demand entrance. The
host was troubled at having to bar his door against friends,
whose voices he recognised; yet it was necessary to prevent the
new arrivals from forcing a way in with them. Out of this
situation a mighty confusion arose, which, what with shouting and
clamour and an inexplicable growth in the number of the
disputants, soon assumed a truly demoniacal character. It seemed
to me as though in a few moments the whole town would break into
a tumult, and I thought I should once more have to witness a
revolution, the real origin of which no man could comprehend.
Then suddenly I heard some one fall, and, as though by magic, the
whole mass scattered in every direction. One of the regular
guests, who was familiar with an ancient Nuremberg boxing trick,
desiring to put an end to the interminable riot and to cut his
way home through the crowd, gave one of the noisiest shouters a
blow with his fist between the eyes, laying him senseless on the
ground, though without seriously injuring him. And this it was
that so speedily broke up the whole throng. Within little more
than a minute of the most violent uproar of hundreds of human
voices, my brother-in-law and I were able to stroll arm-in-arm
through the moonlit streets, quietly jesting and laughing, on our
way home; and then it was that, to my amazement and relief, he
informed me that he was accustomed to this sort of life every

At last, however, it became necessary seriously to attend to the
purpose of my journey. Only in passing did I touch at Wurzburg
for a day. I remember nothing of the meeting with my relations
and acquaintance beyond the melancholy visit to Friederike
Galvani already mentioned. On reaching Frankfort I was obliged to
seek at once the shelter of a decent hotel, in order to await
there the result of my solicitations for subsidies from the
directorate of the Magdeburg theatre. My hopes of securing the
real stars of our operatic undertaking were formed with a view to
a season at Wiesbaden, where, I was told, a good operatic company
was on the point of dissolution. I found it extremely difficult
to arrange the short journey thither; yet I managed to be present
at a rehearsal of Robert der Teufel, in which the tenor
Freimuller distinguished himself. I interviewed him at once, and
found him willing to entertain my proposals for Magdeburg. We
concluded the necessary agreement, and I then returned with all
speed to my headquarters, the Weidenbusch Hotel in Frankfort.
There I had to spend another anxious week, during which I waited
in vain for the necessary travelling expenses to arrive from
Magdeburg. To kill time I had recourse, among other things, to a
large red pocket-book which I carried about with me in my
portmanteau, and in which I entered, with exact details of dates,
etc., notes for my future biography--the selfsame book which now
lies before me to freshen my memory, and which I have ever since
added to at various periods of my life, without leaving any gaps.
Through the neglect of the Magdeburg managers my situation, which
was already serious, became literally desperate, when I made an
acquisition in Frankfort which gave me almost more pleasure than
I was able to bear. I had been present at a production of the
Zauberflote under the direction of Guhr, then wonderfully
renowned as 'a conductor of genius,' and was agreeably surprised
at the truly excellent quality of the company. It was, of course,
useless to think of luring one of the leading stars into my net;
on the other hand, I saw clearly enough that the youthful
Fraulein Limbach, who sang the 'first boy's' part, possessed a
desirable talent. She accepted my offer of an engagement, and,
indeed, seemed so anxious to be rid of her Frankfort engagement
that she resolved to escape from it surreptitiously. She revealed
her plans to me, and begged me to assist her in carrying them
out; for, inasmuch as the directors might get wind of the affair,
there was no time to lose. At all events, the young lady assumed
that I had abundant credit, supplied for my official business
journey by the Magdeburg theatre committee, whose praises I had
so diligently sung. But already I had been compelled to pledge my
scanty travelling gear in order to provide for my own departure.
To this point I had persuaded the host, but now found him by no
means inclined to advance me the additional funds needed for
carrying off a young singer. To cloak the bad behaviour of my
directors I was compelled to invent some tale of misfortune, and
to leave the astonished and indignant young lady behind. Heartily
ashamed of this adventure, I travelled through rain and storm via
Leipzig, where I picked up my brown poodle, and reaching
Magdeburg, there resumed my work as musical director on the 1st
of September.

The result of my business labours gave me but little joy. The
director, it is true, proved triumphantly that he had sent five
whole golden louis to my address in Frankfort, and that my tenor
and the youthful lady-singer had also been provided with proper
contracts, but not with the fares and advances demanded. Neither
of them came; only the basso Graf arrived with pedantic
punctuality from Karlsbad, and immediately provoked the chaff of
our theatrical wags. He sang at a rehearsal of the
Schweizerfamilie with such a schoolmasterly drone that I
completely lost my composure. The arrival of my excellent
brother-in-law Wolfram with my sister Clara was of more advantage
for musical comedy than for grand opera, and caused me
considerable trouble into the bargain; for, being honest folk and
used to decent living, they speedily perceived that, in spite of
royal protection, the condition of the theatre was but very
insecure, as was natural under so unscrupulous a management as
that of Bethmann, and recognised with alarm that they had
seriously compromised their family position. My courage had
already begun to sink when a happy chance brought us a young
woman, Mme. Pollert (nee Zeibig), who was passing through
Magdeburg with her husband, an actor, in order to fulfil a
special engagement in that town; she was gifted with a beautiful
voice, was a talented singer, and well suited for the chief
roles. Necessity had at last driven the directors to action, and
at the eleventh hour they sent for the tenor Freimuller. But I
was particularly gratified when the love which had arisen between
him and young Limbach in Frankfort enabled the enterprising tenor
to carry away this singer, to whom I had behaved so miserably.
Both arrived radiant with joy. Along with them we engaged Mme.
Pollert, who, in spite of her pretentiousness, met with favour
from the public. A well-trained and musically competent baritone,
Herr Krug, afterwards the conductor of a choir in Karlsruhe, had
also been discovered, so that all at once I stood at the head of
a really good operatic company, among which the basso Graf could
be fitted in only with great difficulty, by being kept as much as
possible in the background. We succeeded quickly with a series of
operatic performances which were by no means ordinary, and our
repertory included everything of this nature that had ever been
written for the theatre. I was particularly pleased with the
presentation of Spohr's Jessonda, which was truly not without
sublimity, and raised us high in the esteem of all cultured
lovers of music. I was untiring in my endeavours to discover some
means of elevating our performances above the usual level of
excellence compatible with the meagre resources of provincial
theatres. I persistently fell foul of the director Bethmann by
strengthening my orchestra, which he had to pay; but, on the
other hand, I won his complete goodwill by strengthening the
chorus and the theatre music, which cost him nothing, and which
lent such splendour to our presentations that subscriptions and
audiences increased enormously. For instance, I secured the
regimental band, and also the military singers, who in the
Prussian army are admirably organised, and who assisted in our
performances in return for free passes to the gallery granted to
their relatives. Thus I managed to furnish with the utmost
completeness the specially strong orchestral accompaniment
demanded by the score of Bellini's Norma, and was able to dispose
of a body of male voices for the impressive unison portion of the
male chorus in the introduction of that work such as even the
greatest theatres could rarely command. In later years I was able
to assure Auber, whom I often met over an ice in Tortoni's cafe
in Paris, that in his Lestocq I had been able to render the part
of the mutinous soldiery, when seduced into conspiracy, with an
absolutely full number of voices, a fact for which he thanked me
with astonishment and delight.

Amid such circumstances of encouragement the composition of my
Liebesverbot made rapid strides towards completion. I intended
the presentation of this piece for the benefit performance which
had been promised me as a means of defraying my expenses, and I
worked hard in the hope of improving my reputation, and at the
same time of accomplishing something by no means less desirable,
and that was the betterment of my financial position. Even the
few hours which I could snatch from business to spend at Minna's
side were devoted with unexampled zeal to the completion of my
score. My diligence moved even Minna's mother, who looked with
some uneasiness upon our love affair. She had remained over the
summer on a visit to her daughter, and managed the house for her.
Owing to her interference a new and urgent anxiety had entered
into our relations, which pressed for serious settlement. It was
natural that we should begin to think of what it was all going to
lead to. I must confess that the idea of marriage, especially in
view of my youth, filled me with dismay, and without indeed
reflecting on the matter, or seriously weighing its pros and
cons, a naive and instinctive feeling prevented me even from
considering the possibility of a step which would have such
serious consequences upon my whole life. Moreover, our modest
circumstances were in so alarming and uncertain a state that even
Minna declared that she was more anxious to see these improved
than to get me to marry her. But she was also driven to think of
herself, and that promptly, for trouble arose with regard to her
own position in the Magdeburg theatre. There she had met with a
rival in her own speciality, and as this woman's husband became
chief stage manager, and consequently had supreme power, she grew
to be a source of great danger. Seeing, therefore, that at this
very moment Minna received advantageous offers from the managers
of the Konigstadt theatre in Berlin, then doing a splendid
business, she seized the opportunity to break off her connection
with the Magdeburg theatre, and thus plunged me, whom she did not
appear to consider in the matter, into the depths of despair. I
could not hinder Minna from going to Berlin to fulfil a special
engagement there, although this was not in accordance with her
agreement, and so she departed, leaving me behind, overcome with
grief and doubt as to the meaning of her conduct. At last, mad
with passion, I wrote to her urging her to return, and the better
to move her and not to separate her fate from my own, I proposed
to her in a strictly formal manner, and hinted at the hope of
early marriage. About the same time my brother-in-law, Wolfram,
having quarrelled with the director Bethmann and cancelled his
contract with him, also went to the Konigstadt theatre to fulfil
a special engagement. My good sister Clara, who had remained
behind for a while amid the somewhat unpleasant conditions of
Magdeburg, soon perceived the anxious and troubled temper in
which her otherwise cheerful brother was rapidly consuming
himself. One day she thought it advisable to show me a letter
from her husband, with news from Berlin, and especially
concerning Minna, in which he earnestly deplored my passion for
this girl, who was acting quite unworthily of me. As she lodged
at his hotel, he was able to observe that not only the company
she kept, but also her own conduct, were perfectly scandalous.
The extraordinary impression which this dreadful communication
made upon me decided me to abandon the reserve I had hitherto
shown towards my relatives with regard to my love affairs. I
wrote to my brother-in-law in Berlin, telling him how matters
stood with me, and that my plans greatly depended on Minna, and
further, how extremely important it was for me to learn from him
the indubitable truth concerning her of whom he had sent so evil
an account. From my brother-in-law, usually so dry and given to
joking, I received a reply which filled my heart to overflowing
again. He confessed that he had accused Minna too hastily, and
regretted that he had allowed idle chatter to influence him in
founding a charge, which, on investigation, had proved to be
altogether groundless and unjust; he declared, moreover, that on
nearer acquaintance and conversation with her he had been so
fully convinced of the genuineness and uprightness of her
character, that he hoped with all his heart that I might see my
way to marry her. And now a storm raged in my heart. I implored
Minna to return at once, and was glad to learn that, for her
part, she was not inclined to renew her engagement at the Berlin
theatre, as she had now acquired a more intimate knowledge of the
life there, and found it too frivolous. All that remained, then,
was for me to facilitate the resumption of her Magdeburg
engagement. To this end, therefore, at a meeting of the theatre
committee, I attacked the director and his detested stage manager
with such energy, and defended Minna against the wrong done her
by them both with such passion and fervour, that the other
members, astonished at the frank confession of my affection,
yielded to my wishes without any further ado. And now I set off
by extra post in the depth of night and in dreadful winter
weather to meet my returning sweetheart. I greeted her with tears
of deepest joy, and led her back in triumph to her cosy Magdeburg
home, already become so dear to me.

Meanwhile, as our two lives, thus severed for a while, were being
drawn more and more closely together, I finished the score of my
Liebesverbot about New Year 1836. For the development of my
future plans I depended not a little upon the success of this
work; and Minna herself seemed not disinclined to yield to my
hopes in this respect. We had reason to be concerned as to how
matters would pan out for us at the beginning of the spring, for
this season is always a bad one in which to start such precarious
theatrical enterprises. In spite of royal support and the
participation of the theatre committee in the general management
of the theatre, our worthy director's state of perennial
bankruptcy suffered no alteration, and it seemed as if his
theatrical undertaking could not possibly last much longer in any
form. Nevertheless, with the help of the really first-rate
company of singers at my disposal, the production of my opera was
to mark a complete change in my unsatisfactory circumstances.
With the view of recovering the travelling expenses I had
incurred during the previous summer, I was entitled to a benefit
performance. I naturally fixed this for the presentation of my
own work, and did my utmost so that this favour granted me by the
directors should prove as inexpensive to them as possible. As
they would nevertheless be compelled to incur some expense in the
production of the new opera, I agreed that the proceeds of the
first presentation should be left to them, while I should claim
only those of the second. I did not consider it altogether
unsatisfactory that the time for the rehearsals was postponed
until the very end of the season, for it was reasonable to
suppose that our company, which was often greeted with unusual
applause, would receive special attention and favour from the
public during its concluding performances. Unfortunately,
however, contrary to our expectations, we never reached the
proper close of this season, which had been fixed for the end of
April; for already in March, owing to irregularity in the payment
of salaries, the most popular members of the company, having
found better employment elsewhere, tendered their resignations to
the management, and the director, who was unable to raise the
necessary cash, was compelled to bow to the inevitable. Now,
indeed, my spirits sank, for it seemed more than doubtful whether
my Liebesverbot would ever be produced at all. I owed it entirely
to the warm affection felt for me personally by all members of
the opera company, that the singers consented not only to remain
until the end of March, but also to undertake the toil of
studying and rehearsing my opera, a task which, considering the
very limited time, promised to be extremely arduous. In the event
of our having to give two representations, the time at our
disposal was so very short that, for all the rehearsals, we had
but ten days before us. And since we were concerned not with a
light comedy or farce, but with a grand opera, and one which, in
spite of the trifling character of its music, contained numerous
and powerful concerted passages, the undertaking might have been
regarded almost as foolhardy. Nevertheless, I built my hopes upon
the extraordinary exertions which the singers so willingly made
in order to please me; for they studied continuously, morning,
noon, and night. But seeing that, in spite of all this, it was
quite impossible to attain to perfection, especially in the
matter of words, in the case of every one of these harassed
performers, I reckoned further on my own acquired skill as
conductor to achieve the final miracle of success. The peculiar
ability I possessed of helping the singers and of making them, in
spite of much uncertainty, seem to flow smoothly onwards, was
clearly demonstrated in our orchestral rehearsals, in which, by
dint of constant prompting, loud singing with the performers and
vigorous directions as to necessary action, I got the whole thing
to run so easily that it seemed quite possible that the
performance might be a reasonable success after all.
Unfortunately, we did not consider that in front of the public
all these drastic methods of moving the dramatic and musical
machinery would be restricted to the movements of my baton and to
my facial expression. As a matter of fact the singers, and
especially the men, were so extraordinarily uncertain that from
beginning to end their embarrassment crippled the effectiveness
of every one of their parts. Freimuller, the tenor, whose memory
was most defective, sought to patch up the lively and emotional
character of his badly learned rule of the madcap Luzio by means
of routine work learned in Fra Diavolo and Zampa, and especially
by the aid of an enormously thick, brightly coloured and
fluttering plume of feathers. Consequently, as the directors
failed to have the book of words printed in time, it was
impossible to blame the public for being in doubt as to the main
outlines of the story, seeing that they had only the sung words
to guide them. With the exception of a few portions played by the
lady singers, which were favourably received, the whole
performance, which I had made to depend largely upon bold,
energetic action and speech, remained but a musical shadow-play,
to which the orchestra contributed its own inexplicable
effusions, sometimes with exaggerated noise. As characteristic of
the treatment of my tone-colour, I may mention that the band-
master of a Prussian military band, who, by the bye, had been
well pleased with the performance, felt it incumbent upon him to
give me some well-meant hints for my future guidance, as to the
manipulation of the Turkish drum. Before I relate the further
history of this wonderful work of my youth, I will pause a moment
briefly to describe its character, and especially its poetical

Shakespeare's play, which I kept throughout in mind as the
foundation of my story, was worked out in the following manner:--

An unnamed king of Sicily leaves his country, as I suggest, for a
journey to Naples, and hands over to the Regent appointed--whom I
simply call Friedrich, with the view of making him appear as
German as possible--full authority to exercise all the royal
power in order to effect a complete reform in the social habits
of his capital, which had provoked the indignation of the
Council. At the opening of the play we see the servants of the
public authority busily employed either in shutting up or in
pulling down the houses of popular amusement in a suburb of
Palermo, and in carrying off the inmates, including hosts and
servants, as prisoners. The populace oppose this first step, and
much scuffling ensues. In the thickest of the throng the chief of
the sbirri, Brighella (basso-buffo), after a preliminary roll of
drums for silence, reads out the Regent's proclamation, according
to which the acts just performed are declared to be directed
towards establishing a higher moral tone in the manners and
customs of the people. A general outburst of scorn and a mocking
chorus meets this announcement. Luzio, a young nobleman and
juvenile scape-grace (tenor), seems inclined to thrust himself
forward as leader of the mob, and at once finds an occasion for
playing a more active part in the cause of the oppressed people
on discovering his friend Claudio (also a tenor) being led away
to prison. From him he learns that, in pursuance of some musty
old law unearthed by Friedrich, he is to suffer the penalty of
death for a certain love escapade in which he is involved. His
sweetheart, union with whom had been prevented by the enmity of
their parents, has borne him a child. Friedrich's puritanical
zeal joins cause with the parents' hatred; he fears the worst,
and sees no way of escape save through mercy, provided his sister
Isabella may be able, by her entreaties, to melt the Regent's
hard heart. Claudio implores his friend at once to seek out
Isabella in the convent of the Sisters of St. Elizabeth, which
she has recently entered as novice. There, between the quiet
walls of the convent, we first meet this sister, in confidential
intercourse with her friend Marianne, also a novice. Marianne
reveals to her friend, from whom she has long been parted, the
unhappy fate which has brought her to the place. Under vows of
eternal fidelity she had been persuaded to a secret liaison with
a man of high rank. But finally, when in extreme need she found
herself not only forsaken, but threatened by her betrayer, she
discovered him to be the mightiest man in the state, none other
than the King's Regent himself. Isabella's indignation finds vent
in impassioned words, and is only pacified by her determination
to forsake a world in which so vile a crime can go unpunished.--
When now Luzio brings her tidings of her own brother's fate, her
disgust at her brother's misconduct is turned at once to scorn
for the villainy of the hypocritical Regent, who presumes so
cruelly to punish the comparatively venial offence of her
brother, which, at least, was not stained by treachery. Her
violent outburst imprudently reveals her to Luzio in a seductive
aspect; smitten with sudden love, he urges her to quit the
convent for ever and to accept his hand. She contrives to check
his boldness, but resolves at once to avail herself of his escort
to the Regent's court of justice.--Here the trial scene is
prepared, and I introduce it by a burlesque hearing of several
persons charged by the sbirro captain with offences against
morality. The earnestness of the situation becomes more marked
when the gloomy form of Friedrich strides through the inrushing
and unruly crowd, commanding silence, and he himself undertakes
the hearing of Claudio's case in the sternest manner possible.
The implacable judge is already on the point of pronouncing
sentence when Isabella enters, and requests, before them all, a
private interview with the Regent. In this interview she behaves
with noble moderation towards the dreaded, yet despised man
before her, and appeals at first only to his mildness and mercy.
His interruptions merely serve to stimulate her ardour: she
speaks of her brother's offence in melting accents, and implores
forgiveness for so human and by no means unpardonable a crime.
Seeing the effect of her moving appeal, she continues with
increasing ardour to plead with the judge's hard and unresponsive
heart, which can certainly not have remained untouched by
sentiments such as those which had actuated her brother, and she
calls upon his memory of these to support her desperate plea for
pity. At last the ice of his heart is broken. Friedrich, deeply
stirred by Isabella's beauty, can no longer contain himself, and
promises to grant her petition at the price of her own love.
Scarcely has she become aware of the unexpected effect of her
words when, filled with indignation at such incredible villainy,
she cries to the people through doors and windows to come in,
that she may unmask the hypocrite before the world. The crowd is
already rushing tumultuously into the hall of judgment, when, by
a few significant hints, Friedrich, with frantic energy, succeeds
in making Isabella realise the impossibility of her plan. He
would simply deny her charge, boldly pretend that his offer was
merely made to test her, and would doubtless be readily believed
so soon as it became only a question of rebutting a charge of
lightly making love to her. Isabella, ashamed and confounded,
recognises the madness of her first step, and gnashes her teeth
in silent despair. While then Friedrich once more announces his
stern resolve to the people, and pronounces sentence on the
prisoner, it suddenly occurs to Isabella, spurred by the painful
recollection of Marianne's fate, that what she has failed to
procure by open means she might possibly obtain by craft. This
thought suffices to dispel her sorrow, and to fill her with
utmost gaiety. Turning to her sorrowing brother, her agitated
friends, and the perplexed crowd, she assures them all that she
is ready to provide them with the most amusing of adventures. She
declares that the carnival festivities, which the Regent has just
strictly forbidden, are to be celebrated this year with unusual
licence; for this dreaded ruler only pretends to be so cruel, in
order the more pleasantly to astonish them by himself taking a
merry part in all that he has just forbidden. They all believe
that she has gone mad, and Friedrich in particular reproves her
incomprehensible folly with passionate severity. But a few words
on her part suffice to transport the Regent himself with ecstasy;
for in a whisper she promises to grant his desire, and that on
the following night she will send him such a message as shall
ensure his happiness.--And so ends the first act in a whirl of

We learn the nature of the heroine's hastily formed plan at the
beginning of the second act, in which she visits her brother in
his cell, with the object of discovering whether he is worthy of
rescue. She reveals Friedrich's shameful proposal to him, and
asks if he would wish to save his life at the price of his
sister's dishonour. Then follow Claudio's fury and fervent
declaration of his readiness to die; whereupon, bidding farewell
to his sister, at least for this life, he makes her the bearer of
the most tender messages to the dear girl whom he leaves behind.
After this, sinking into a softer mood, the unhappy man declines
from a state of melancholy to one of weakness. Isabella, who had
already determined to inform him of his rescue, hesitates in
dismay when she sees him fall in this way from the heights of
noble enthusiasm to a muttered confession of a love of life still
as strong as ever, and even to a stammering query as to whether
the suggested price of his salvation is altogether impossible.
Disgusted, she springs to her feet, thrusts the unworthy man from
her, and declares that to the shame of his death he has further
added her most hearty contempt. After having handed him over
again to his gaoler, her mood once more changes swiftly to one of
wanton gaiety. True, she resolves to punish the waverer by
leaving him for a time in uncertainty as to his fate; but stands
firm by her resolve to rid the world of the abominable seducer
who dared to dictate laws to his fellow-men. She tells Marianne
that she must take her place at the nocturnal rendezvous, at
which Friedrich so treacherously expected to meet her (Isabella),
and sends Friedrich an invitation to this meeting. In order to
entangle the latter even more deeply in ruin, she stipulates that
he must come disguised and masked, and fixes the rendezvous in
one of those pleasure resorts which he has just suppressed. To
the madcap Luzio, whom she also desires to punish for his saucy
suggestion to a novice, she relates the story of Friedrich's
proposal, and her pretended intention of complying, from sheer
necessity, with his desires. This she does in a fashion so
incomprehensively light-hearted that the otherwise frivolous man,
first dumb with amazement, ultimately yields to a fit of
desperate rage. He swears that, even if the noble maiden herself
can endure such shame, he will himself strive by every means in
his power to avert it, and would prefer to set all Palermo on
fire and in tumult rather than allow such a thing to happen. And,
indeed, he arranges things in such a manner that on the appointed
evening all his friends and acquaintances assemble at the end of
the Corso, as though for the opening of the prohibited carnival
procession. At nightfall, as things are beginning to grow wild
and merry, Luzio appears, and sings an extravagant carnival song,
with the refrain:

    Who joins us not in frolic jest 
    Shall have a dagger in his breast;

by which means he seeks to stir the crowd to bloody revolt. When
a band of sbirri approaches, under Brighella's leadership, to
scatter the gay throng, the mutinous project seems on the point
of being accomplished. But for the present Luzio prefers to
yield, and to scatter about the neighbourhood, as he must first
of all win the real leader of their enterprise: for here was the
spot which Isabella had mischievously revealed to him as the
place of her pretended meeting with the Regent. For the latter
Luzio therefore lies in wait. Recognising him in an elaborate
disguise, he blocks his way, and as Friedrich violently breaks
loose, is on the point of following him with shouts and drawn
sword, when, on a sign from Isabella, who is hidden among some
bushes, he is himself stopped and led away. Isabella then
advances, rejoicing in the thought of having restored the
betrayed Marianne to her faithless spouse. Believing that she
holds in her hand the promised pardon for her brother, she is
just on the point of abandoning all thought of further vengeance
when, breaking the seal, to her intense horror she recognises by
the light of a torch that the paper contains but a still more
severe order of execution, which, owing to her desire not to
disclose to her brother the fact of his pardon, a mere chance had
now delivered into her hand, through the agency of the bribed
gaoler. After a hard fight with the tempestuous passion of love,
and recognising his helplessness against this enemy of his peace,
Friedrich has in fact already resolved to face his ruin, even
though as a criminal, yet still as a man of honour. An hour on
Isabella's breast, and then--his own death by the same law whose
implacable severity shall also claim Claudio's life. Isabella,
perceiving in this conduct only a further proof of the
hypocrite's villainy, breaks out once more into a tempest of
agonised despair. Upon her cry for immediate revolt against the
scoundrelly tyrant, the people collect together and form a motley
and passionate crowd. Luzio, who also returns, counsels the
people with stinging bitterness to pay no heed to the woman's
fury; he points out that she is only tricking them, as she has
already tricked him--for he still believes in her shameless
infidelity. Fresh confusion; increased despair of Isabella;
suddenly from the background comes the burlesque cry of Brighella
for help, who, himself suffering from the pangs of jealousy, has
by mistake arrested the masked Regent, and thus led to the
latter's discovery. Friedrich is recognised, and Marianne,
trembling on his breast, is also unmasked. Amazement,
indignation! Cries of joy burst forth all round; the needful
explanations are quickly given, and Friedrich sullenly demands to
be set before the judgment-seat of the returning King. Claudio,
released from prison by the jubilant populace, informs him that
the sentence of death for crimes of love is not intended for all
times; messengers arrive to announce the unexpected arrival in
harbour of the King; it is resolved to march in full masked
procession to meet the beloved Prince, and joyously to pay him
homage, all being convinced that he will heartily rejoice to see
how ill the gloomy puritanism of Germany is suited to his hot-
blooded Sicily. Of him it is said:

Your merry festals please him more
Than gloomy laws or legal lore.

Friedrich, with his freshly affianced wife, Marianne, must lead
the procession, followed by Luzio and the novice, who is for ever
lost to the convent.

These spirited and, in many respects, boldly devised scenes I had
clothed in suitable language and carefully written verse, which
had already been noticed by Laube. The police at first took
exception to the title of the work, which, had I not changed it,
would have led to the complete failure of my plans for its
presentation. It was the week before Easter, and the theatre was
consequently forbidden to produce jolly, or at least frivolous,
plays during this period. Luckily the magistrate, with whom I had
to treat concerning the matter, did not show any inclination to
examine the libretto himself; and when I assured him that it was
modelled upon a very serious play of Shakespeare's, the
authorities contented themselves merely with changing the
somewhat startling title. Die Novize van Palermo, which was the
new title, had nothing suspicious about it, and was therefore
approved as correct without further scruple. I fared quite
otherwise in Leipzig, where I attempted to introduce this work in
the place of my Feen, when the latter was withdrawn. The
director, Ringelhardt, whom I sought to win over to my cause by
assigning the part of Marianne to his daughter, then making her
debut in opera, chose to reject my work on the apparently very
reasonable grounds that the tendency of the theme displeased him.
He assured me that, even if the Leipzig magistrates had consented
to its production--a fact concerning which his high esteem for
that body led him to have serious doubts--he himself, as a
conscientious father, could certainly not permit his daughter to
take part in it.

Strange to say, I suffered nothing from the suspicious nature of
the libretto of my opera on the occasion of its production in
Magdeburg; for, as I have said, thanks to the unintelligible
manner in which it was produced, the story remained a complete
mystery to the public. This circumstance, and the fact that no
opposition had been raised on the ground of its TENDENCY, made a
second performance possible, and as nobody seemed to care one way
or the other, no objections were raised. Feeling sure that my
opera had made no impression, and had left the public completely
undecided about its merits, I reckoned that, in view of this
being the farewell performance of our opera company, we should
have good, not to say large, takings. Consequently I did not
hesitate to charge 'full' prices for admittance. I cannot rightly
judge whether, up to the commencement of the overture, any people
had taken their places in the auditorium; but about a quarter of
an hour before the time fixed for beginning, I saw only Mme.
Gottschalk and her husband, and, curiously enough, a Polish Jew
in full dress, seated in the stalls. Despite this, I was still
hoping for an increase in the audience, when suddenly the most
incredible commotion occurred behind the scenes. Herr Pollert,
the husband of my prima donna (who was acting Isabella), was
assaulting Schreiber, the second tenor, a very young and handsome
man taking the part of Claudio, and against whom the injured
husband had for some time been nursing a secret rancour born of
jealousy. It appeared that the singer's husband, who had surveyed
the theatre from behind the drop-scene with me, had satisfied
himself as to the style of the audience, and decided that the
longed-for hour was at hand when, without injuring the operatic
enterprise, he could wreak vengeance on his wife's lover. Claudio
was so severely used by him that the unfortunate fellow had to
seek refuge in the dressing-room, his face covered with blood.
Isabella was told of this, and rushed despairingly to her raging
spouse, only to be so soundly cuffed by him that she went into
convulsions. The confusion that ensued amongst the company soon
knew no bounds: they took sides in the quarrel, and little was
wanting for it to turn into a general fight, as everybody seemed
to regard this unhappy evening as particularly favourable for the
paying off of any old scores and supposed insults. This much was
clear, that the couple suffering from the effects of Herr
Pollert's conjugal resentment were unfit to appear that evening.
The manager was sent before the drop-scene to inform the small
and strangely assorted audience gathered in the theatre that,
owing to unforeseen circumstances, the representation would not
take place.

This was the end of my career as director and composer in
Magdeburg, which in the beginning had seemed so full of promise
and had been started at the cost of considerable sacrifice. The
serenity of art now gave way completely before the stern
realities of life. My position gave food for meditation, and the
outlook was not a cheerful one. All the hopes that I and Minna
had founded upon the success of my work had been utterly
destroyed. My creditors, who had been appeased by the
anticipation of the expected harvest, lost faith in my talents,
and now counted solely on obtaining bodily possession of me,
which they endeavoured to do by speedily instituting legal
proceedings. Now that every time I came home I found a summons
nailed to my door, my little dwelling in the Breiter Weg became
unbearable; I avoided going there, especially since my brown
poodle, who had hitherto enlivened this retreat, had vanished,
leaving no trace. This I looked upon as a bad sign, indicating my
complete downfall.

At this time Minna, with her truly comforting assurance and
firmness of bearing, was a tower of strength to me and the one
thing I had left to fall back upon. Always full of resource, she
had first of all provided for her own future, and was on the
point of signing a not unfavourable contract with the directors
of the theatre at Konigsberg in Prussia. It was now a question of
finding me an appointment in the same place as musical conductor;
this post was already filled. The Konigsberg director, however,
gathering from our correspondence that Minna's acceptance of the
engagement depended upon the possibility of my being taken on at
the same theatre, held out the prospect of an approaching
vacancy, and expressed his willingness to allow it to be filled
by me. On the strength of this assurance it was decided that
Minna should go on to Konigsberg and pave the way for my arrival

Ere these plans could be carried out, we had still to spend a
time of dreadful and acute anxiety, which I shall never forget,
within the walls of Magdeburg. It is true I made one more
personal attempt in Leipzig to improve my position, on which
occasion I entered into the transactions mentioned above with the
director of the theatre regarding my new opera. But I soon
realised that it was out of the question for me to remain in my
native town, and in the disquieting proximity of my family, from
which I was restlessly anxious to get away. My excitability and
depression were noticed by my relations. My mother entreated me,
whatever else I might decide to do, on no account to be drawn
into marriage while still so young. To this I made no reply. When
I took my leave, Rosalie accompanied me to the head of the
stairs. I spoke of returning as soon as I had attended to certain
important business matters, and wanted to wish her a hurried
good-bye: she grasped my hand, and gazing into my face,
exclaimed, "God alone knows when I shall see you again!" This cut
me to the heart, and I felt conscience-stricken. The fact that
she was expressing the presentiment she felt of her early death I
only realised when, barely two years later, without having seen
her again, I received the news that she had died very suddenly.

I spent a few more weeks with Minna in the strictest retirement
in Magdeburg: she endeavoured to the best of her ability to
relieve the embarrassment of my position. In view of our
approaching separation, and the length of time we might be
parted, I hardly left her side, our only relaxation being the
walks we took together round the outskirts of the town. Anxious
forebodings weighed upon us; the May sun which lit the sad
streets of Magdeburg, as if in mockery of our forlorn condition,
was one day more clouded over than I have ever seen it since, and
filled me with a positive dread. On our way home from one of
these walks, as we were approaching the bridge crossing the Elbe,
we caught sight of a man flinging himself from it into the water
beneath. We ran to the bank, called for help, and persuaded a
miller, whose mill was situated on the river, to hold out a rake
to the drowning man, who was being swept in his direction by the
current. With indescribable anxiety we waited for the decisive
moment--saw the sinking man stretch out his hands towards the
rake, but he failed to grasp it, and at the same moment
disappeared under the mill, never to be seen again. On the
morning that I accompanied Minna to the stage-coach to bid her a
most sorrowful farewell, the whole population was pouring from
one of the gateways of the town towards a big field, to witness
the execution of a man condemned to be put to death on the wheel
'from below.'

[Footnote: Durch das Rod van unten. The punishment of the wheel
was usually inflicted upon murderers, incendiaries, highwaymen
and church robbers. There were two methods of inflicting this:
(1) 'from above downwards' (von oben nach unten), in which the
condemned man was despatched instantly owing to his neck getting
broken from the start; and (2) 'from below upwards' (von unten
nach oben), which is the method referred to above, and in which
all the limbs of the victim were broken previous to his body
being actually twisted through the spokes of the wheel.--Editor ]

The culprit was a soldier who had murdered his sweetheart in a
fit of jealousy. When, later in the day, I sat down to my last
dinner at the inn, I heard the dreadful details of the Prussian
mode of execution being discussed on all sides. A young
magistrate, who was a great lover of music, told us about a
conversation he had had with the executioner, who had been
procured from Halle, and with whom he had discussed the most
humane method of hastening the death of the victim; in telling us
about him, he recalled the elegant dress and manners of this ill-
omened person with a shudder.

These were the last impressions I carried away from the scene of
my first artistic efforts and of my attempts at earning an
independent livelihood. Often since then on my departure from
places where I had expected to find prosperity, and to which I
knew I should never return, those impressions have recurred to my
mind with singular persistence. I have always had much the same
feelings upon leaving any place where I had stayed in the hope of
improving my position.

Thus I arrived in Berlin for the first time on the 18th May,
1836, and made acquaintance with the peculiar features of that
pretentious royal capital. While my position was an uncertain
one, I sought a modest shelter at the Crown Prince in the
Konigstrasse, where Minna had stayed a few months before. I found
a friend on whom I could rely when I came across Laube again,
who, while awaiting his verdict, was busying himself with private
and literary work in Berlin. He was much interested in the fate
of my work Liebesverbot, and advised me to turn my present
situation to account for the purpose of obtaining the production
of this opera at the Konigstadt theatre. This theatre was under
the direction of one of the most curious creatures in Berlin: he
was called 'Cerf,' and the title of Commissionsrath had been
conferred upon him by the King of Prussia. To account for the
favours bestowed upon him by royalty, many reasons of a not very
edifying nature were circulated. Through this royal patronage he
had succeeded in extending considerably the privileges already
enjoyed by the suburban theatre. The decline of grand opera at
the Theatre Royal had brought light opera, which was performed
with great success at the Konigstadt theatre, into public favour.
The director, puffed up by success, openly laboured under the
delusion that he was the right man in the right place, and
expressed his entire agreement with those who declared that one
could only expect a theatre to be successfully managed by common
and uneducated men, and continued to cling to his blissful and
boundless state of ignorance in the most amusing manner. Relying
absolutely upon his own insight, he had assumed an entirely
dictatorial attitude towards the officially appointed artists of
his theatre, and allowed himself to deal with them according to
his likes and dislikes. I seemed destined to be favoured by this
mode of procedure: at my very first visit Cerf expressed his
satisfaction with me, but wished to make use of me as a 'tenor.'
He offered no objection whatever to my request for the production
of my opera, but, on the contrary, promised to have it staged
immediately. He seemed particularly anxious to appoint me
conductor of the orchestra. As he was on the point of changing
his operatic company, he foresaw that his present conductor,
Glaser, the composer of Adlershorst, would hinder his plans by
taking the part of the older singers: he was therefore anxious to
have me associated with his theatre, that he might have some one
to support him who was favourably disposed towards the new

All this sounded so plausible, that I could scarcely be blamed
for believing that the wheel of fortune had taken a favourable
 turn for me, and for feeling a sense of lightheartedness at the
thought of such rosy prospects. I had scarcely allowed myself the
few modifications in my manner of living which these improved
circumstances seemed to justify, ere it was made clear to me that
my hopes were built upon sand. I was filled with positive dread
when I soon fully realised how nearly Cerf had come to defrauding
me, merely it would seem for his own amusement. After the manner
of despots, he had given his favours personally and
autocratically; the withdrawal and annulment of his promises,
however, he made known to me through his servants and
secretaries, thus placing his strange conduct towards me in the
light of the inevitable result of his dependence upon

As Cerf wished to rid himself of me without even offering me
compensation, I was obliged to try to come to some understanding
regarding all that had been definitely arranged between us, and
this with the very people against whom he had previously warned
me and had wanted me to side with him. The conductor, stage
manager, secretary, etc., had to make it clear to me that my
wishes could not be satisfied, and that the director owed me no
compensation whatever for the time he had made me waste while
awaiting the fulfilment of his promises. This unpleasant
experience has been a source of pain to me ever since.

Owing to all this my position was very much worse than it had
been before. Minna wrote to me frequently from Konigsberg, but
she had nothing encouraging to tell me with regard to my hopes in
that direction. The director of the theatre there seemed unable
to come to any clear understanding with his conductor, a
circumstance which I was afterwards able to understand, but which
at the time appeared to me inexplicable, and made my chance of
obtaining the coveted appointment seem exceedingly remote. It
seemed certain, however, that the post would be vacant in the
autumn, and as I was drifting about aimlessly in Berlin and
refused for a moment to entertain the thought of returning to
Leipzig, I snatched at this faint hope, and in imagination soared
above the Berlin quicksands to the safety of the harbour on the

I only succeeded in doing so, however, after I had struggled
 through difficult and serious inward conflicts to which my
relations with Minna gave rise. An incomprehensible feature in
the character of this otherwise apparently simple-minded woman
had thrown my young heart into a turmoil. A good-natured, well-
to-do tradesman of Jewish extraction, named Schwabe, who till
that time had been established in Magdeburg, made friendly
advances to me in Berlin, and I soon discovered that his sympathy
was chiefly due to the passionate interest which he had conceived
for Minna. It afterwards became clear to me that an intimacy had
existed between this man and Minna, which in itself could hardly
be considered as a breach of faith towards me, since it had ended
in a decided repulse of my rival's courtship in my favour. But
the fact of this episode having been kept so secret that I had
not had the faintest idea of it before, and also the suspicion I
could not avoid harbouring that Minna's comfortable circumstances
were in part due to this man's friendship, filled me with gloomy
misgivings. But as I have said, although I could find no real
cause to complain of infidelity, I was distracted and alarmed,
and was at last driven to the half-desperate resolve of regaining
my balance in this respect by obtaining complete possession of
Minna. It seemed to me as though my stability as a citizen as
well as my professional success would be assured by a recognised
union with Minna. The two years spent in the theatrical world
had, in fact, kept me in a constant state of distraction, of
which in my heart of hearts I was most painfully conscious. I
realised vaguely that I was on the wrong path; I longed for peace
and quiet, and hoped to find these most effectually by getting
married, and so putting an end to the state of things that had
become the source of so much anxiety to me.

It was not surprising that Laube noticed by my untidy,
passionate, and wasted appearance that something unusual was
amiss with me. It was only in his company, which I always found
comforting, that I gained the only impressions of Berlin which
compensated me in any way for my misfortunes. The most important
artistic experience I had, came to me through the performance of
Ferdinand Cortez, conducted by Spontini himself, the spirit of
which astonished me more than anything I had ever heard before.
Though the actual production, especially as regards the chief
characters, who as a whole could not be regarded as belonging to
the flower of Berlin opera, left me unmoved, and though the effect
never reached a point that could be even distantly compared to that
produced upon me by Schroder-Devrient, yet the exceptional
precision, fire, and richly organised rendering of the whole was
new to me. I gained a fresh insight into the peculiar dignity of
big theatrical representations, which in their several parts could,
by well-accentuated rhythm, be made to attain the highest pinnacle
of art. This extraordinarily distinct impression took a drastic
hold of me, and above all served to guide me in my conception of
Rienzi, so that, speaking from an artistic point of view, Berlin
may be said to have left its traces on my development.

For the present, however, my chief concern was to extricate
myself from my extremely helpless position. I was determined to
turn my steps to Konigsberg, and communicated my decision, and
the hopes founded upon it, to Laube. This excellent friend,
without further inquiry, made a point of exerting his energies to
free me from my present state of despair, and to help me to reach
my next destination, an object which, through the assistance of
several of his friends, he succeeded in accomplishing. When he
said good-bye to me, Laube with sympathetic foresight warned me,
should I succeed in my desired career of musical conductor, not
to allow myself to be entangled in the shallowness of stage life,
and advised me, after fatiguing rehearsals, instead of going to
my sweetheart, to take a serious book in hand, in order that my
greater gifts might not go uncultivated. I did not tell him that
by taking an early and decisive step in this direction I intended
to protect myself effectually against the dangers of theatrical
intrigues. On the 7th of July, therefore, I started on what was
at that time an extremely troublesome and fatiguing journey to
the distant town of Konigsberg.

It seemed to me as though I were leaving the world, as I
travelled on day after day through the desert marches. Then
followed a sad and humiliating impression of Konigsberg, where,
in one of the poorest-looking suburbs, Tragheim, near the
theatre, and in a lane such as one would expect to find in a
 village, I found the ugly house in which Minna lodged. The
friendly and quiet kindness of manner, however, which was
peculiar to her, soon made me feel at home. She was popular at
the theatre, and was respected by the managers and actors, a fact
which seemed to augur well for her betrothed, the part I was now
openly to assume.

Though as yet there seemed no distinct prospect of my getting the
appointment I had come for, yet we agreed that I could hold out a
little longer, and that the matter would certainly be arranged in
the end. This was also the opinion of the eccentric Abraham
Moller, a worthy citizen of Konigsberg, who was devoted to the
theatre, and who took a very friendly interest in Minna, and
finally also in me. This man, who was already well advanced in
life, belonged to the type of theatre lovers now probably
completely extinct in Germany, but of whom so much is recorded in
the history of actors of earlier times. One could not spend an
hour in the company of this man, who at one time had gone in for
the most reckless speculations, without having to listen to his
account of the glory of the stage in former times, described in
most lively terms. As a man of means he had at one time made the
acquaintance of nearly all the great actors and actresses of his
day, and had even known how to win their friendship. Through too
great a liberality he unfortunately found himself in reduced
circumstances, and was now obliged to procure the means to
satisfy his craving for the theatre and his desire to protect
those belonging to it by entering into all kinds of strange
business transactions, in which, without running any real risk,
he felt there was something to be gained. He was accordingly only
able to afford the theatre a very meagre support, but one which
was quite in keeping with its decrepit condition.

This strange man, of whom the theatre director, Anton Hubsch,
stood to a certain extent in awe, undertook to procure me my
appointment. The only circumstance against me was the fact that
Louis Schubert, the famous musician whom I had known from very
early times as the first violoncellist of the Magdeburg
orchestra, had come to Konigsberg from Riga, where the theatre
had been closed for a time, and where he had left his wife, in
order to fill the post of musical conductor here until the new
theatre in Riga was opened, and he could return. The
reopening of the Riga theatre, which had already been fixed
for the Easter of this year, had been postponed, and he was now
anxious not to leave Konigsberg. Since Schubert was a thorough
master in his art, and since his choosing to remain or go
depended entirely on circumstances over which he had no control,
the theatre director found himself in the embarrassing position
of having to secure some one who would be willing to wait to
enter upon his appointment till Schubert's business called him
away. Consequently a young musical conductor who was anxious to
remain in Konigsberg at any price could but be heartily welcomed
as a reserve and substitute in case of emergency. Indeed, the
director declared himself willing to give me a small retaining
fee till the time should arrive for my definite entrance upon my

Schubert, on the contrary, was furious at my arrival; there was
no longer any necessity for his speedy return to Riga, since the
reopening of the theatre there had been postponed indefinitely.
Moreover, he had a special interest in remaining in Konigsberg,
as he had conceived a passion for the prima donna there, which
considerably lessened his desire to return to his wife. So at the
last moment he clung to his Konigsberg post with great eagerness,
regarded me as his deadly enemy, and, spurred on by his instinct
of self-preservation, used every means in his power to make my
stay in Konigsberg, and the already painful position I occupied
while awaiting his departure, a veritable hell to me.

While in Magdeburg I had been on the friendliest footing with
both musicians and singers, and had been shown the greatest
consideration by the public, I here found I had to defend myself
on all sides against the most mortifying ill-will. This hostility
towards me, which soon made itself apparent, contributed in no
small degree to make me feel as though in coming to Konigsberg I
had gone into exile. In spite of my eagerness, I realised that
under the circumstances my marriage with Minna would prove a
hazardous undertaking. At the beginning of August the company
went to Memel for a time, to open the summer season there, and I
followed Minna a few days later. We went most of the way by sea,
and crossed the Kurische Haff in a sailing vessel in bad weather
with the wind against us--one of the most melancholy crossings I
have ever experienced. As we passed the thin strip of sand that
divides this bay from the Baltic Sea, the castle of Runsitten,
where Hoffmann laid the scene of one of his most gruesome tales
(Das Majorat), was pointed out to me. The fact that in this
desolate neighbourhood, of all places in the world, I should after
so long a lapse of time be once more brought in contact with the
fantastic impressions of my youth, had a singular and depressing
effect on my mind. The unhappy sojourn in Memel, the lamentable
role I played there, everything in short, contributed to make me
find my only consolation in Minna, who, after all, was the cause of
my having placed myself in this unpleasant position. Our friend
Abraham followed us from Konigsberg and did all kinds of queer
things to promote my interests, and was obviously anxious to put
the director and conductor at variance with each other. One day
Schubert, in consequence of a dispute with Hubsch on the previous
night, actually declared himself too unwell to attend a rehearsal
of Euryanthe, in order to force the manager to summon me suddenly
to take his place. In doing this my rival maliciously hoped that as
I was totally unprepared to conduct this difficult opera, which was
seldom played, I would expose my incapacity in a manner most
welcome to his hostile intentions. Although I had never really had
a score of Euryanthe before me, his wish was so little gratified,
that he elected to get well for the representation in order to
conduct it himself, which he would not have done if it had been
found necessary to cancel the performance on account of my
incompetence. In this wretched position, vexed in mind, exposed to
the severe climate, which even on summer evenings struck me as
horribly cold, and occupied merely in warding off the most painful
troubles of life, my time, as far as any professional advancement
was concerned, was completely lost. At last, on our return to
Konigsberg, and particularly under the guardianship of Moller, the
question as to what was to be done was more earnestly considered.
Finally, Minna and I were offered a fairly good engagement in
Danzig, through the influence of my brother-in-law Wolfram and his
wife, who had gone there.

Moller seized this opportunity to induce the director Hubsch, who
was anxious not to lose Minna, to sign a contract including us
both, and by which it was understood that under any circumstances
I should be officially appointed as conductor at his theatre from
the following Easter. Moreover, for our wedding, a benefit
performance was promised, for which we chose Die Stumme von
Portici, to be conducted by me in person. For, as Moller
remarked, it was absolutely necessary for us to get married, and
to have a due celebration of the event; there was no getting out
of it. Minna made no objection, and all my past endeavours and
resolutions seemed to prove that my one desire was to take anchor
in the haven of matrimony. In spite of this, however, a strange
conflict was going on within me at this time. I had become
sufficiently intimate with Minna's life and character to realise
the wide difference between our two natures as fully as the
important step I was about to take necessitated; but my powers of
judgment were not yet sufficiently matured.

My future wife was the child of poor parents, natives of Oederan
in the Erzgebirge in Saxony. Her father was no ordinary man; he
possessed enormous vitality, but in his old age showed traces of
some feebleness of mind. In his young days he had been a
trumpeter in Saxony, and in this capacity had taken part in a
campaign against the French, and had also been present at the
battle of Wagram. He afterwards became a mechanic, and took up
the trade of manufacturing cards for carding wool, and as he
invented an improvement in the process of their production, he is
said to have made a very good business of it for some time. A
rich manufacturer of Chemnitz once gave him a large order to be
delivered at the end of the year: the children, whose pliable
fingers had already proved serviceable in this respect, had to
work hard day and night, and in return the father promised them
an exceptionally happy Christmas, as he expected to get a large
sum of money. When the longed-for time arrived, however, he
received the announcement of his client's bankruptcy. The goods
that had already been delivered were lost, and the material that
remained on his hands there was no prospect of selling. The
family never succeeded in recovering from the state of confusion
into which this misfortune had thrown them; they went to Dresden,
where the father hoped to find remunerative employment as a skilled
mechanic, especially in the manufacture of pianos, of which he
supplied separate parts. He also brought away with him a large
quantity of the fine wire which had been destined for the
manufacture of the cards, and which he hoped to be able to sell at
a profit. The ten-year-old Minna was commissioned to sell separate
lots of it to the milliners for making flowers. She would set out
with a heavy basketful of wire, and had such a gift for persuading
people to buy that she soon disposed of the whole supply to the
best advantage. From this time the desire was awakened in her to be
of active use to her impoverished family, and to earn her own
living as soon as possible, in order not to be a burden on her
parents. As she grew up and developed into a strikingly beautiful
woman, she attracted the attention of men at a very early age. A
certain Herr von Einsiedel fell passionately in love with her, and
took advantage of the inexperienced young girl when she was off her
guard. Her family was thrown into the utmost consternation, and
only her mother and elder sister could be told of the terrible
position in which Minna found herself. Her father, from whose anger
the worst consequences were to be feared, was never informed that
his barely seventeen-year-old daughter had become a mother, and
under conditions that had threatened her life, had given birth to a
girl. Minna, who could obtain no redress from her seducer, now felt
doubly called upon to earn her own livelihood and leave her
father's house. Through the influence of friends, she had been
brought into contact with an amateur theatrical society: while
acting in a performance given there, she attracted the notice of
members of the Royal Court Theatre, and in particular drew the
attention of the director of the Dessau Court Theatre, who was
present, and who immediately offered her an engagement. She gladly
caught at this way of escape from her trying position, as it opened
up the possibility of a brilliant stage career, and of some day
being able to provide amply for her family. She had not the
slightest passion for the stage, and utterly devoid as she was of
any levity or coquetry, she merely saw in a theatrical career the
means of earning a quick, and possibly even a rich, livelihood.
Without any artistic training, the theatre merely meant for her the
company of actors and actresses. Whether she pleased or not seemed
of importance in her eyes only in so far as it affected her
realisation of a comfortable independence. To use all the means at
her disposal to assure this end seemed to her as necessary as it is
for a tradesman to expose his goods to the best advantage.

The friendship of the director, manager, and favourite members of
the theatre she regarded as indispensable, whilst those
frequenters of the theatre who, through their criticism or taste,
influenced the public, and thus also had weight with the
management, she recognised as beings upon whom the attainment of
her most fervent desires depended. Never to make enemies of them
appeared so natural and so necessary that, in order to maintain
her popularity, she was prepared to sacrifice even her self-
respect. She had in this way created for herself a certain
peculiar code of behaviour, that on the one hand prompted her to
avoid scandals, but on the other hand found excuses even for
making herself conspicuous as long as she herself knew that she
was doing nothing wrong. Hence arose a mixture of
inconsistencies, the questionable sense of which she was
incapable of grasping. It was clearly impossible for her not to
lose all real sense of delicacy; she showed, however, a sense of
the fitness of things, which made her have regard to what was
considered proper, though she could not understand that mere
appearances were a mockery when they only served to cloak the
absence of a real sense of delicacy. As she was without idealism,
she had no artistic feeling; neither did she possess any talent
for acting, and her power of pleasing was due entirely to her
charming appearance. Whether in time routine would have made her
become a good actress it is impossible for me to say. The strange
power she exercised over me from the very first was in no wise
due to the fact that I regarded her in any way as the embodiment
of my ideal; on the contrary, she attracted me by the soberness
and seriousness of her character, which supplemented what I felt
to be wanting in my own, and afforded me the support that in my
wanderings after the ideal I knew to be necessary for me.

I had soon accustomed myself never to betray my craving after the
ideal before Minna: unable to account for this even to myself, I
always made a point of avoiding the subject by passing it over
with a laugh and a joke; but, on this account, it was all the
more natural for me to feel qualms when fears arose in my mind as
to her really possessing the qualities to which I had attributed
her superiority over me. Her strange tolerance with regard to
certain familiarities and even importunities on the part of
patrons of the theatre, directed even against her person, hurt me
considerably; and on my reproaching her for this, I was driven to
despair by her assuming an injured expression as though I had
insulted her. It was quite by chance that I came across Schwabe's
letters, and thus gained an astonishing insight into her intimacy
with that man, of which she had left me in ignorance, and allowed
me to gain my first knowledge during my stay in Berlin. All my
latent jealousy, all my inmost doubts concerning Minna's
character, found vent in my sudden determination to leave the
girl at once. There was a violent scene between us, which was
typical of all our subsequent altercations. I had obviously gone
too far in treating a woman who was not passionately in love with
me, as if I had a real right over her; for, after all, she had
merely yielded to my importunity, and in no way belonged to me.
To add to my perplexity, Minna only needed to remind me that from
a worldly point of view she had refused very good offers in order
to give way to the impetuosity of a penniless young man, whose
talent had not yet been put to any real test, and to whom she had
nevertheless shown sympathy and kindness.

What she could least forgive in me was the raging vehemence with
which I spoke, and by which she felt so insulted, that upon
realising to what excesses I had gone, there was nothing I could
do but try and pacify her by owning myself in the wrong, and
begging her forgiveness. Such was the end of this and all
subsequent scenes, outwardly; at least, always to her advantage.
But peace was undermined for ever, and by the frequent recurrence
of such quarrels, Minna's character underwent a considerable
change. Just as in later times she became perplexed by what she
considered my incomprehensible conception of art and its
proportions, which upset her ideas about everything connected
with it, so now she grew more and more confused by my greater
delicacy in regard to morality, which was very different from
hers, especially as in many other respects I displayed a freedom
of opinion which the could neither comprehend nor approve.

A feeling of passionate resentment was accordingly roused in her
otherwise tranquil disposition. It was not surprising that this
resentment increased as the years went on, and manifested itself
in a manner characteristic of a girl sprung from the lower middle
class, in whom mere superficial polish had taken the place of any
true culture. The real torment of our subsequent life together
lay in the fact that, owing to her violence, I had lost the last
support I had hitherto found in her exceptionally sweet
disposition. At that time I was filled only with a dim foreboding
of the fateful step I was taking in marrying her. Her agreeable
and soothing qualities still had such a beneficial effect upon
me, that with the frivolity natural to me, as well as the
obstinacy with which I met all opposition, I silenced the inner
voice that darkly foreboded disaster.

Since my journey to Konigsberg I had broken off all communication
with my family, that is to say, with my mother and Rosalie, and I
told no one of the step I had decided to take. Under my old
friend Moller's audacious guidance I overcame all the legal
difficulties that stood in the way of our union. According to
Prussian law, a man who has reached his majority no longer
requires his parents' consent to his marriage: but since,
according to this same provision, I was not yet of age, I had
recourse to the law of Saxony, to which country I belonged by
birth, and by whose regulations I had already attained my
majority at the age of twenty-one. Our banns had to be published
at the place where we had been living during the past year, and
this formality was carried out in Magdeburg without any further
objections being raised. As Minna's parents had given their
consent, the only thing that still remained to be done to make
everything quite in order was for us to go together to the
clergyman of the parish of Tragheim. This proved a strange enough
visit. It took place the morning preceding the performance to be
given for our benefit, in which Minna had chosen, the pantomimic
role of Fenella; her costume was not ready yet, and there was
still a great deal to be done. The rainy cold November weather
made us feel out of humour, when, to add to our vexation, we
were kept standing in the hall of the vicarage for an unreasonable
time. Then an altercation arose between us which speedily led to
such bitter vituperation that we were just on the point of
separating and going each our own way, when the clergyman opened
the door. Not a little embarrassed at having surprised us in the
act of quarrelling, he invited us in. We were obliged to put a
good face on the matter, however; and the absurdity of the situation
so tickled our sense of humour that we laughed; the parson was
appeased, and the wedding fixed for eleven o'clock the next morning.

Another fruitful source of irritation, which often led to the
outbreak of violent quarrelling between us, was the arrangement
of our future home, in the interior comfort and beauty of which I
hoped to find a guarantee of happiness. The economical ideas of
my bride filled me with impatience. I was determined that the
inauguration of a series of prosperous years which I saw before
me must be celebrated by a correspondingly comfortable home.
Furniture, household utensils, and all necessaries were obtained
on credit, to be paid for by instalment. There was, of course, no
question of a dowry, a wedding outfit, or any of the things that
are generally considered indispensable to a well-founded
establishment. Our witnesses and guests were drawn from the
company of actors accidentally brought together by their
engagement at the Konigsberg theatre. My friend Moller made us a
present of a silver sugar-basin, which was supplemented by a
silver cake-basket from another stage friend, a peculiar and, as
far as I can remember, rather interesting young man named Ernst
Castell. The benefit performance of the Die Stumme von Portici,
which I conducted with great enthusiasm, went off well, and
brought us in as large a sum as we had counted upon. After
spending the rest of the day before our wedding very quietly, as
we were tired out after our return from the theatre, I took up my
abode for the first time in our new home. Not wishing to use the
bridal bed, decorated for the occasion, I lay down on a hard
sofa, without even sufficient covering on me, and froze valiantly
while awaiting the happiness of the following day. I was
pleasantly excited the next morning by the arrival of Minna's
belongings, packed in boxes and baskets. The weather, too, had
quite cleared up, and the sun was shining brightly; only our
sitting-room refused to get properly warm, which for some time
drew down Minna's reproaches upon my head for my supposed
carelessness in not having seen to the heating arrangements. At
last I dressed myself in my new suit, a dark blue frock-coat with
gold buttons. The carriage drove up, and I set out to fetch my
bride. The bright sky had put us all in good spirits, and in the
best of humour I met Minna, who was dressed in a splendid gown
chosen by me. She greeted me with sincere cordiality and pleasure
shining from her eyes; and taking the fine weather as a good
omen, we started off for what now seemed to us a most cheerful
wedding. We enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing the church as
over-crowded as if a brilliant theatrical representation were
being given; it was quite a difficult matter to make our way to
the altar, where a group no less worldly than the rest,
consisting of our witnesses, dressed in all their theatrical
finery, were assembled to receive us. There was not one real
friend amongst all those present, for even our strange old friend
Moller was absent, because no suitable partner had been found for
him. I was not for a single moment insensible to the chilling
frivolity of the congregation, who seemed to impart their tone to
the whole ceremony. I listened like one in a dream to the nuptial
address of the parson, who, I was afterwards told, had had a
share in producing the spirit of bigotry which at this time was
so prevalent in Konigsberg, and which exercised such a
disquieting influence on its population.

A few days later I was told that a rumour had got about the town
that I had taken action against the parson for some gross insults
contained in his sermon; I did not quite see what was meant, but
supposed that the exaggerated report arose from a passage in his
address which I in my excitement had misunderstood. The preacher,
in speaking of the dark days, of which we were to expect our
share, bade us look to an unknown friend, and I glanced up
inquiringly for further particulars of this mysterious and
influential patron who chose so strange a way of announcing
himself. Reproachfully, and with peculiar emphasis, the pastor
then pronounced the name of this unknown friend: Jesus. Now I was
not in any way insulted by this, as people imagined, but was
simply disappointed; at the same time, I thought that such
exhortations were probably usual in nuptial addresses.

But, on the whole, I was so absent-minded during this ceremony,
which was double Dutch to me, that when the parson held out the
closed prayer-book for us to place our wedding rings upon, Minna
had to nudge me forcibly to make me follow her example.

At that moment I saw, as clearly as in a vision, my whole being
divided into two cross-currents that dragged me in different
directions; the upper one faced the sun and carried me onward
like a dreamer, whilst the lower one held my nature captive, a
prey to some inexplicable fear. The extraordinary levity with
which I chased away the conviction which kept forcing itself upon
me, that I was committing a twofold sin, was amply accounted for
by the really genuine affection with which I looked upon the
young girl whose truly exceptional character (so rare in the
environment in which she had been placed) led her thus to bind
herself to a young man without any means of support. It was
eleven o'clock on the morning of the 24th of November, 1836, and
I was twenty-three and a half.

On the way home from church, and afterwards, my good spirits rose
superior to all my doubts.

Minna at once took upon herself the duty of receiving and
entertaining her guests. The table was spread, and a rich feast,
at which Abraham Moller, the energetic promoter of our marriage,
also took part, although he had been rather put out by his
exclusion from the church ceremony, made up for the coldness of
the room, which for a long time refused to get warm, to the great
distress of the young hostess.

Everything went off in the usual uneventful way. Nevertheless, I
retained my good spirits till the next morning, when I had to
present myself at the magistrate's court to meet the demands of
my creditors, which had been forwarded to me from Magdeburg to

My friend Moller, whom I had retained for my defence, had
foolishly advised me to meet my creditors' demands by pleading
infancy according to the law of Prussia, at all events until
actual assistance for the settlement of the claims could be

The magistrate, to whom I stated this plea as I had been advised,
was astonished, being probably well aware of my marriage on the
previous day, which could only have taken place on the production
of documentary proof of my majority. I naturally only gained a
brief respite by this manoeuvre, and the troubles which beset me
for a long time afterwards had their origin on the first day of
my marriage.

During the period when I held no appointment at the theatre I
suffered various humiliations. Nevertheless, I thought it wise to
make the most of my leisure in the interests of my art, and I
finished a few pieces, among which was a grand overture on Rule

When I was still in Berlin I had written the overture entitled
Polonia, which has already been mentioned in connection with the
Polish festival. Rule Britannia was a further and deliberate step
in the direction of mass effects; at the close a strong military
band was to be added to the already over-full orchestra, and I
intended to have the whole thing performed at the Musical
Festival in Konigsberg in the summer.

To these two overtures I added a supplement--an overture entitled
Napoleon. The point to which I devoted my chief attention was the
selection of the means for producing certain effects, and I
carefully considered whether I should express the annihilating
stroke of fate that befell the French Emperor in Russia by a beat
on the tom-tom or not. I believe it was to a great extent my
scruples about the introduction of this beat that prevented me
from carrying out my plan just then.

On the other hand, the conclusions which I had reached regarding
the ill-success of Liebesverbot resulted in an operatic sketch in
which the demands made on the chorus and the staff of singers
should be more in proportion to the known capacity of the local
company, as this small theatre was the only one at my disposal.

A quaint tale from the Arabian Nights suggested the very subject
for a light work of this description, the title of which, if I
remember rightly, was Mannerlist grosser als Frauenlist ('Man
outwits Woman').

I transplanted the story from Bagdad to a modern setting. A young
goldsmith offends the pride of a young woman by placing the above
motto on the sign over his shop; deeply veiled, she steps into
his shop and asks him, as he displays such excellent taste in his
work, to express his opinion on her own physical charms; he
begins with her feet and her hands, and finally, noticing his
confusion, she removes the veil from her face. The jeweller is
carried away by her beauty, whereupon she complains to him that
her father, who has always kept her in the strictest seclusion,
describes her to all her suitors as an ugly monster, his object
being, she imagines, simply to keep her dowry. The young man
swears that he will not be frightened off by these foolish
objections, should the father raise them against his suit. No
sooner said than done. The daughter of this peculiar old
gentleman is promised to the unsuspecting jeweller, and is
brought to her bridegroom as soon as he has signed the contract.
He then sees that the father has indeed spoken the truth, the
real daughter being a perfect scarecrow. The beautiful lady
returns to the bridegroom to gloat over his desperation, and
promises to release him from his terrible marriage if he will
remove the motto from his signboard. At this point I departed
from the original, and continued as follows: The enraged jeweller
is on the point of tearing down his unfortunate signboard when a
curious apparition leads him to pause in the act. He sees a bear-
leader in the street making his clumsy beast dance, in whom the
luckless lover recognises at a glance his own father, from whom
he has been parted by a hard fate.

He suppresses any sign of emotion, for in a flash a scheme occurs
to him by which he can utilise this discovery to free himself
from the hated marriage with the daughter of the proud old

He instructs the bear-leader to come that evening to the garden
where the solemn betrothal is to take place in the presence of
the invited guests.

He then explains to his young enemy that he wishes to leave the
signboard up for the time being, as he still hopes to prove the
truth of the motto.

After the marriage contract, in which the young man arrogates to
himself all kinds of fictitious titles of nobility, has been read
to the assembled company (composed, say, of the elite of the
noble immigrants at the time of the French Revolution), there is
heard suddenly the pipe of the bear-leader, who enters the garden
with his prancing beast. Angered by this trivial diversion, the
astonished company become indignant when the bridegroom, giving
free vent to his feelings, throws himself with tears of joy into
the arms of the bear-leader and loudly proclaims him as his long-
lost father. The consternation of the company becomes even
greater, however, when the bear itself embraces the man they
supposed to be of noble birth, for the beast is no less a person
than his own brother in the flesh who, on the death of the real
bear, had donned its skin, thus enabling the poverty-stricken
pair to continue to earn their livelihood in the only way left to
them. This public disclosure of the bridegroom's lowly origin at
once dissolves the marriage, and the young woman, declaring
herself outwitted by man, offers her hand in compensation to the
released jeweller.

To this unassuming subject I gave the title of the Gluckliche
Barenfamilie, and provided it with a dialogue which afterwards
met with Holtei's highest approval.

I was about to begin the music for it in a new light French
style, but the seriousness of my position, which grew more and
more acute, prevented further progress in my work.

In this respect my strained relations with the conductor of the
theatre were still a constant source of trouble. With neither the
opportunity nor the means to defend myself, I had to submit to
being maligned and rendered an object of suspicion on all sides
by my rival, who remained master of the field. The object of this
was to disgust me with the idea of taking up my appointment as
musical conductor, for which the contract had been signed for
Easter. Though I did not lose my self-confidence, I suffered
keenly from the indignity and the depressing effect of this
prolonged strain.

When at last, at the beginning of April, the moment arrived for
the musical conductor Schubert to resign, and for me to take over
the whole charge, he had the melancholy satisfaction of knowing
that not only was the standing of the opera seriously weakened by
the departure of the prima donna, but that there was good reason
to doubt whether the theatre could be carried on at all. This
month of Lent, which was such a bad time in Germany for all
similar theatrical enterprises, decimated the Konigsberg audience
with the rest. The director took the greatest trouble imaginable
to fill up the gaps in the staff of the opera by means of
engaging strangers temporarily, and by new acquisitions, and in
this my personality and unflagging activity were of real service;
I devoted all my energy to buoying up by word and deed the
tattered ship of the theatre, in which I now had a hand for the
first time.

For a long time I had to try and keep cool under the most violent
treatment by a clique of students, among whom my predecessor had
raised up enemies for me; and by the unerring certainty of my
conducting I had to overcome the initial opposition of the
orchestra, which had been set against me.

After laboriously laying the foundation of personal respect, I
was now forced to realise that the business methods of the
director, Hubsch, had already involved too great a sacrifice to
permit the theatre to make its way against the unfavourableness
of the season, and in May he admitted to me that he had come to
the point of being obliged to close the theatre.

By summoning up all my eloquence, and by making suggestions which
promised a happy issue, I was able to induce him to persevere;
nevertheless, this was only possible by making demands on the
loyalty of his company, who were asked to forego part of their
salaries for a time. This aroused general bitterness on the part
of the uninitiated, and I found myself in the curious position of
being forced to place the director in a favourable light to those
who were hard hit by these measures, while I myself and my
position were affected in such a manner that my situation became
daily more unendurable under the accumulation of intolerable
difficulties taking their root in my past.

But though I did not even then lose courage, Minna, who as my
wife was robbed of all that she had a right to expect, found this
turn of fate quite unbearable. The hidden canker of our married
life which, even before our marriage, had caused me the most
terrible anxiety and led to violent scenes, reached its full
growth under these sad conditions. The less I was able to
maintain the standard of comfort due to our position by working
and making the most of my talents, the more did Minna, to my
insufferable shame, consider it necessary to take this burden
upon herself by making the most of her personal popularity. The
discovery of similar condescensions--as I used to call them--on
Minna's part, had repeatedly led to revolting scenes, and only
her peculiar conception of her professional position and the
needs it involved had made a charitable interpretation possible.

I was absolutely unable to bring my young wife to see my point of
view, or to make her realise my own wounded feelings on these
occasions, while the unrestrained violence of my speech and
behaviour made an understanding once and for all impossible.
These scenes frequently sent my wife into convulsions of so
alarming a nature that, as will easily be realised, the
satisfaction of reconciling her once more was all that remained
to me. Certain it was that our mutual attitude became more and
more incomprehensible and inexplicable to us both.

These quarrels, which now became more frequent and more
distressing, may have gone far to diminish the strength of any
affection which Minna was able to give me, but I had no idea that
she was only waiting for a favourable opportunity to come to a
desperate decision.

To fill the place of tenor in our company, I had summoned
Friedrich Schmitt to Konigsberg, a friend of my first year in
Magdeburg, to whom allusion has already been made. He was
sincerely devoted to me, and helped me as much as possible in
overcoming the dangers which threatened the prosperity of the
theatre as well as my own position.

The necessity of being on friendly terms with the public made me
much less reserved and cautious in making new acquaintances,
especially when in his company.

A rich merchant, of the name of Dietrich, had recently
constituted himself a patron of the theatre, and especially of
 the women. With due deference to the men with whom they were
connected, he used to invite the pick of these ladies to dinner
at his house, and affected, on these occasions, the well-to-do
Englishman, which was the beau-ideal for German merchants,
especially in the manufacturing towns of the north.

I had shown my annoyance at the acceptance of the invitation,
sent to us among the rest, at first simply because his looks were
repugnant to me. Minna considered this very unjust. Anyhow, I set
my face decidedly against continuing our acquaintance with this
man, and although Minna did not insist on receiving him, my
conduct towards the intruder was the cause of angry scenes
between us.

One day Friedrich Schmitt considered it his duty to inform me
that this Herr Dietrich had spoken of me at a public dinner in
such a manner as to lead every one to suppose that he had a
suspicious intimacy with my wife. I felt obliged to suspect Minna
of having, in some way unknown to me, told the fellow about my
conduct towards her, as well as about our precarious position.

Accompanied by Schmitt, I called this dangerous person to account
on the subject in his own home. At first this only led to the
usual denials. Afterwards, however, he sent secret communications
to Minna concerning the interview, thus providing her with a
supposed new grievance against me in the form of my inconsiderate
treatment of her.

Our relations now reached a critical stage, and on certain points
we preserved silence.

At the same time--it was towards the end of May, 1837--the
business affairs of the theatre had reached the crisis above
mentioned, when the management was obliged to fall back on the
self-sacrificing co-operation of the staff to assure the
continuance of the undertaking. As I have said before, my own
position at the end of a year so disastrous to my welfare was
seriously affected by this; nevertheless, there seemed to be no
alternative for me but to face these difficulties patiently, and
relying on the faithful Friedrich Schmitt, but ignoring Minna, I
began to take the necessary steps for making my post at
Konigsberg secure. This, as well as the arduous part I took in
the business of the theatre, kept me so busy and so much away
from home, that I was not able to pay any particular attention to
Minna's silence and reserve.

On the morning of the 31st of May I took leave of Minna,
expecting to be detained till late in the afternoon by rehearsals
and business matters. With my entire approval she had for some
time been accustomed to have her daughter Nathalie, who was
supposed by every one to be her youngest sister, to stay with

As I was about to wish them my usual quiet good-bye, the two
women rushed after me to the door and embraced me passionately,
Minna as well as her daughter bursting into tears. I was alarmed,
and asked the meaning of this excitement, but could get no answer
from them, and I was obliged to leave them and ponder alone over
their peculiar conduct, of the reason for which I had not even
the faintest idea.

I arrived home late in the afternoon, worn out by my exertions
and worries, dead-tired, pale and hungry, and was surprised to
find the table not laid and Minna not at home, the maid telling
me that she had not yet returned from her walk with Nathalie.

I waited patiently, sinking down exhausted at the work-table,
which I absent-mindedly opened. To my intense astonishment it was
empty. Horror-struck, I sprang up and went to the wardrobe, and
realised at once that Minna had left the house; her departure had
been so cunningly planned that even the maid was unaware of it.

With death in my soul I dashed out of the house to investigate
the cause of Minna's disappearance.

Old Moller, by his practical sagacity, very soon found out that
Dietrich, his personal enemy, had left Konigsberg in the
direction of Berlin by the special coach in the morning.

This horrible fact stood staring me in the face.

I had now to try and overtake the fugitives. With the lavish use
of money this might have been possible, but funds were lacking,
and had, in part, to be laboriously collected.

On Moller's advice I took the silver wedding presents with me in
case of emergency, and after the lapse of a few terrible hours
went off, also by special coach, with my distressed old friend.
We hoped to overtake the ordinary mail-coach, which had started a
short time before, as it was probable that Minna would also
continue her journey in this, at a safe distance from Konigsberg.

This proved impossible, and when next morning at break of day we
arrived in Elbing, we found our money exhausted by the lavish use
of the express coach, and were compelled to return; we
discovered, moreover, that even by using the ordinary coach we
should be obliged to pawn the sugar-basin and cake-dish.

This return journey to Konigsberg rightly remains one of the
saddest memories of my youth. Of course, I did not for a moment
entertain the idea of remaining in the place; my one thought was
how I could best get away. Hemmed in between the law-suits of my
Magdeburg creditors and the Konigsberg tradesmen, who had claims
on me for the payment by instalment of my domestic accounts, my
departure could only be carried out in secrecy. For this very
reason, too, it was necessary for me to raise money, particularly
for the long journey from Konigsberg to Dresden, whither I
determined to go in quest of my wife, and these matters detained
me for two long and terrible days.

I received no news whatever from Minna; from Moller I ascertained
that she had gone to Dresden, and that Dietrich had only
accompanied her for a short distance on the excuse of helping her
in a friendly way.

I succeeded in assuring myself that she really only wished to get
away from a position that filled her with desperation, and for
this purpose had accepted the assistance of a man who sympathised
with her, and that she was for the present seeking rest and
shelter with her parents. My first indignation at the event
accordingly subsided to such an extent that I gradually acquired
more sympathy for her in her despair, and began to reproach
myself both for my conduct and for having brought unhappiness on

I became so convinced of the correctness of this view during the
tedious journey to Dresden via Berlin, which I eventually
undertook on the 3rd of June, that when at last I found Minna at
the humble abode of her parents, I was really quite unable to
express anything but repentence and heartbroken sympathy.

It was quite true that Minna thought herself badly treated by me,
and declared that she had only been forced to take this desperate
step by brooding over our impossible position, to which she
thought me both blind and deaf. Her parents were not pleased to
see me: the painfully excited condition of their daughter seemed
to afford sufficient justification for her complaints against me.
Whether my own sufferings, my hasty pursuit, and the heartfelt
expression of my grief made any favourable impression on her, I
can really hardly say, as her manner towards me was very confused
and, to a certain extent, incomprehensible. Still she was
impressed when I told her that there was a good prospect of my
obtaining the post of musical conductor at Riga, where a new
theatre was about to be opened under the most favourable
conditions. I felt that I must not press for new resolutions
concerning the regulation of our future relations just then, but
must strive the more earnestly to lay a better foundation for
them. Consequently, after spending a fearful week with my wife
under the most painful conditions, I went to Berlin, there to
sign my agreement with the new director of the Riga theatre. I
obtained the appointment on fairly favourable terms which, I saw,
would enable me to keep house in such a style that Minna could
retire from the theatre altogether. By this means she would be in
a position to spare me all humiliation and anxiety.

On returning to Dresden, I found that Minna was ready to lend a
willing ear to my proposed plans, and I succeeded in inducing her
to leave her parents' house, which was very cramped for us, and
to establish herself in the country at Blasewitz, near Dresden,
to await our removal to Riga. We found modest lodgings at an inn
on the Elbe, in the farm-yard of which I had often played as a
child. Here Minna's frame of mind really seemed to be improving.
She had begged me not to press her too hard, and I spared her as
much as possible. After a few weeks I thought I might consider
the period of uneasiness past, but was surprised to find the
situation growing worse again without any apparent reason. Minna
then told me of some advantageous offers she had received from
different theatres, and astonished me one day by announcing her
intention of taking a short pleasure trip with a girl friend and
her family. As I felt obliged to avoid putting any restraint upon
her, I offered no objection to the execution of this project,
which entailed a week's separation, but accompanied her back to
her parents myself, promising to await her return quietly at
Blasewitz. A few days later her eldest sister called to ask me
for the written permission required to make out a passport for my
wife. This alarmed me, and I went to Dresden to ask her parents
what their daughter was about. There, to my surprise, I met with
a very unpleasant reception; they reproached me coarsely for my
behaviour to Minna, whom they said I could not even manage to
support, and when I only replied by asking for information as to
the whereabouts of my wife, and about her plans for the future, I
was put off with improbable statements. Tormented by the sharpest
forebodings, and understanding nothing of what had occurred, I
went back to the village, where I found a letter from Konigsberg,
from Moller, which poured light on all my misery. Herr Dietrich
had gone to Dresden, and I was told the name of the hotel at
which he was staying. The terrible illumination thrown by this
communication upon Minna's conduct showed me in a flash what to
do. I hurried into town to make the necessary inquiries at the
hotel mentioned, and found that the man in question had been
there, but had moved on again. He had vanished, and Minna too! I
now knew enough to demand of the Fates why, at such an early age,
they had sent me this terrible experience which, as it seemed to
me, had poisoned my whole existence.

I sought consolation for my boundless grief in the society of my
sister Ottilie and her husband, Hermann Brockhaus, an excellent
fellow to whom she had been married for some years. They were
then living at their pretty summer villa in the lovely Grosser
Garten, near Dresden. I had looked them up at once the first time
I went to Dresden, but as I had not at that time the slightest
idea of how things were going to turn out, I had told them
nothing, and had seen but little of them. Now I was moved to
break my obstinate silence, and unfold to them the cause of my
misery, with but few reservations.

For the first time I was in a position gratefully to appreciate
the advantages of family intercourse, and of the direct and
disinterested intimacy between blood relations. Explanations were
hardly necessary, and as brother and sister we found ourselves as
closely linked now as we had been when we were children. We
arrived at a complete understanding without having to explain
what we meant; I was unhappy, she was happy; consolation and help
followed as a matter of course.

This was the sister to whom I once had read Leubald und Adelaide
in a thunderstorm; the sister who had listened, filled with
astonishment and sympathy, to that eventful performance of my
first overture on Christmas Eve, and whom I now found married to
one of the kindest of men, Hermann Brockhaus, who soon earned a
reputation for himself as an expert in oriental languages. He was
the youngest brother of my elder brother-in-law, Friedrich
Brockhaus. Their union was blessed by two children; their
comfortable means favoured a life free from care, and when I made
my daily pilgrimage from Blasewitz to the famous Grosser Garten,
it was like stepping from a desert into paradise to enter their
house (one of the popular villas), knowing that I would
invariably find a welcome in this happy family circle. Not only
was my spirit soothed and benefited by intercourse with my
sister, but my creative instincts, which had long lain dormant,
were stimulated afresh by the society of my brilliant and learned
brother-in-law. It was brought home to me, without in any way
hurting my feelings, that my early marriage, excusable as it may
have been, was yet an error to be retrieved, and my mind regained
sufficient elasticity to compose some sketches, designed this
time not merely to meet the requirements of the theatre as I knew
it. During the last wretched days I had spent with Minna at
Blasewitz, I had read Bulwer Lytton's novel, Rienzi; during my
convalescence in the bosom of my sympathetic family, I now worked
out the scheme for a grand opera under the inspiration of this
book. Though obliged for the present to return to the limitations
of a small theatre, I tried from this time onwards to aim at
enlarging my sphere of action. I sent my overture, Rule
Britannia, to the Philharmonic Society in London, and tried to
get into communication with Scribe in Paris about a setting for
H. Konig's novel, Die Hohe Braut, which I had sketched out.

Thus I spent the remainder of this summer of ever-happy memory.
At the end of August I had to leave for Riga to take up my new
appointment. Although I knew that my sister Rosalie had shortly
before married the man of her choice, Professor Oswald Marbach of
Leipzig, I avoided that city, probably with the foolish notion of
sparing myself any humiliation, and went straight to Berlin,
where I had to receive certain additional instructions from my
future director, and also to obtain my passport. There I met a
younger sister of Minna's, Amalie Planer, a singer with a pretty
voice, who had joined our opera company at Magdeburg for a short
time. My report of Minna quite overwhelmed this exceedingly kind-
hearted girl. We went to a performance of Fidelia together,
during which she, like myself, burst into tears and sobs.
Refreshed by the sympathetic impression I had received, I went by
way of Schwerin, where I was disappointed in my hopes of finding
traces of Minna, to Lubeck, to wait for a merchant ship going to
Riga. We had set sail for Travemunde when an unfavourable wind
set in, and held up our departure for a week: I had to spend this
disagreeable time in a miserable ship's tavern. Thrown on my own
resources I tried, amongst other things, to read Till
Eulenspiegel, and this popular book first gave me the idea of a
real German comic opera. Long afterwards, when I was composing
the words for my Junger Siegfried, I remember having many vivid
recollections of this melancholy sojourn in Travemunde and my
reading of Till Eulenspiegel. After a voyage of four days we at
last reached port at Bolderaa. I was conscious of a peculiar
thrill on coming into contact with Russian officials, whom I had
instinctively detested since the days of my sympathy with the
Poles as a boy. It seemed to me as if the harbour police must
read enthusiasm for the Poles in my face, and would send me to
Siberia on the spot, and I was the more agreeably surprised, on
reaching Riga, to find myself surrounded by the familiar German
element which, above all, pervaded everything connected with the

After my unfortunate experiences in connection with the
conditions of small German stages, the way in which this newly
opened theatre was run had at first a calming effect on my mind.
A society had been formed by a number of well-to-do theatre-goers
and rich business men to raise, by voluntary subscription,
sufficient money to provide the sort of management they regarded
as ideal with a solid foundation. The director they appointed was
Karl von Holtei, a fairly popular dramatic writer, who enjoyed a
certain reputation in the theatrical world. This man's ideas
about the stage represented a special tendency, which was at that
time on the decline. He possessed, in addition to his remarkable
social gifts, an extraordinary acquaintance with all the
principal people connected with the theatre during the past
twenty years, and belonged to a society called Die
Liebenswurdigen Libertins ('The Amiable Libertines'). This was a
set of young would-be wits, who looked upon the stage as a
playground licensed by the public for the display of their mad
pranks, from which the middle class held aloof, while people of
culture were steadily losing all interest in the theatre under
these hopeless conditions.

Holtei's wife had in former days been a popular actress at the
Konigstadt theatre in Berlin, and it was here, at the time when
Henriette Sontag raised it to the height of its fame, that
Holtei's style had been formed. The production there of his
melodrama Leonore (founded on Burger's ballad) had in particular
earned him a wide reputation as a writer for the stage, besides
which he produced some Liederspiele, and among them one, entitled
Der Alte Feldherr, became fairly popular. His invitation to Riga
had been particularly welcome, as it bid fair to gratify his
craving to absorb himself completely in the life of the stage; he
hoped, in this out-of-the-way place, to indulge his passion
without restraint. His peculiar familiarity of manner, his
inexhaustible store of amusing small talk, and his airy way of
doing business, gave him a remarkable hold on the tradespeople of
Riga, who wished for nothing better than such entertainment as he
was able to give them. They provided him liberally with all the
necessary means and treated him in every respect with entire
confidence. Under his auspices my own engagement had been very
easily secured. Surly old pedants he would have none of,
favouring young men on the score of their youth alone. As far as
I myself was concerned, it was enough for him to know that I
belonged to a family which he knew and liked, and hearing,
moreover, of my fervent devotion to modern Italian and French
music in particular, he decided that I was the very man for him.
He had the whole shoal of Bellini's, Donizetti's, Adam's, and
Auber's operatic scores copied out, and I was to give the good
people of Riga the benefit of them with all possible speed.

The first time I visited Holtei I met an old Leipzig
acquaintance, Heinrich Dorn, my former mentor, who now held the
permanent municipal appointment of choir-master at the church and
music-teacher in the schools. He was pleased to find his curious
pupil transformed into a practical opera conductor of independent
position, and no less surprised to see the eccentric worshipper
of Beethoven changed into an ardent champion of Bellini and Adam.
He took me home to his summer residence, which was built,
according to Riga phraseology, 'in the fields,' that is
literally, on the sand. While I was giving him some account of
the experiences through which I had passed, I grew conscious of
the strangely deserted look of the place. Feeling frightened and
homeless, my initial uneasiness gradually developed into a
passionate longing to escape from all the whirl of theatrical
life which had wooed me to such inhospitable regions. This uneasy
mood was fast dispelling the flippancy which at Magdeburg had led
to my being dragged down to the level of the most worthless stage
society, and had also conduced to spoil my musical taste. It also
contained the germs of a new tendency which developed during the
period of my activity at Riga, brought me more and more out of
touch with the theatre, thereby causing Director Holtei all the
annoyance which inevitably attends disappointment.

For some time, however, I found no difficulty in making the best
of a bad bargain. We were obliged to open the theatre before the
company was complete. To make this possible, we gave a
performance of a short comic opera by C. Blum, called Marie, Max
und Michel. For this work I composed an additional air for a song
which Holtei had written for the bass singer, Gunther; it
consisted of a sentimental introduction and a gay military rondo,
and was very much appreciated. Later on, I introduced another
additional song into the Schweizerfamilie, to be sung by another
bass singer, Scheibler; it was of a devotional character, and
pleased not only the public, but myself, and showed signs of the
upheaval which was gradually taking place in my musical
development. I was entrusted with the composition of a tune for a
National Hymn written by Brakel in honour of the Tsar Nicholas's
birthday. I tried to give it as far as possible the right
colouring for a despotic patriarchal monarch, and once again I
achieved some fame, for it was sung for several successive years
on that particular day. Holtei tried to persuade me to write a
bright, gay comic opera, or rather a musical play, to be
performed by our company just as it stood. I looked up the
libretto of my Glucktiche Barenfamilie, and found Holtei very
well disposed towards it (as I have stated elsewhere); but when I
unearthed the little music which I had already composed for it, I
was overcome with disgust at this way of writing; whereupon I
made a present of the book to my clumsy, good-natured friend,
Lobmann, my right-hand man in the orchestra, and never gave it
another thought from that day to this. I managed, however, to get
to work on the libretto of Rienzi, which I had sketched out at
Blasewitz. I developed it from every point of view, on so
extravagant a scale, that with this work I deliberately cut off
all possibility of being tempted by circumstances to produce it
anywhere but on one of the largest stages in Europe.

But while this helped to strengthen my endeavour to escape from
all the petty degradations of stage life, new complications arose
which affected me more and more seriously, and offered further
opposition to my aims. The prima donna engaged by Holtei had
failed us, and we were therefore without a singer for grand
opera. Under the circumstances, Holtei joyfully agreed to my
proposal to ask Amalie, Minna's sister (who was glad to accept an
engagement that brought her near me), to come to Riga at once. In
her answer to me from Dresden, where she was then living, she
informed me of Minna's return to her parents, and of her present
miserable condition owing to a severe illness. I naturally took
this piece of news very coolly, for what I had heard about Minna
since she left me for the last time had forced me to authorise my
old friend at Konigsberg to take steps to procure a divorce. It
was certain that Minna had stayed for some time at a hotel in
Hamburg with that ill-omened man, Herr Dietrich, and that she had
spread abroad the story of our separation so unreservedly that
the theatrical world in particular had discussed it in a manner
that was positively insulting to me. I simply informed Amalie of
this, and requested her to spare me any further news of her

Hereupon Minna herself appealed to me, and wrote me a positively
heartrending letter, in which she openly confessed her
infidelity. She declared that she had been driven to it by
despair, but that the great trouble she had thus brought upon
herself having taught her a lesson, all she now wished was to
return to the right path. Taking everything into account, I
concluded that she had been deceived in the character of her
seducer, and the knowledge of her terrible position had placed
her both morally and physically in a most lamentable condition,
in which, now ill and wretched, she turned to me again to
acknowledge her guilt, crave my forgiveness, and assure me, in
spite of all, that she had now become fully aware of her love for
me. Never before had I heard such sentiments from Minna, nor was
I ever to hear the same from her again, save on one touching
occasion many years later, when similar outpourings moved and
affected me in the same way as this particular letter had done.
In reply I told her that there should never again be any mention
between us of what had occurred, for which I took upon myself the
chief blame; and I can pride myself on having carried out this
resolution to the letter.

When her sister's engagement was satisfactorily settled, I at
once invited Minna to come to Riga with her. Both gladly accepted
my invitation, and arrived from Dresden at my new home on 19th
October, wintry weather having already set in. With much regret I
perceived that Minna's health had really suffered, and therefore
did all in my power to provide her with all the domestic comforts
and quiet she needed. This presented difficulties, for my modest
income as a conductor was all I had at my disposal, and we were
both firmly determined not to let Minna go on the stage again. On
the other hand, the carrying out of this resolve, in view of the
financial inconvenience it entailed, produced strange
complications, the nature of which was only revealed to me later,
when startling developments divulged the real moral character of
the manager Holtei. For the present I had to let people think
that I was jealous of my wife. I bore patiently with the general
belief that I had good reasons to be so, and rejoiced meanwhile
at the restoration of our peaceful married life, and especially
at the sight of our humble home, which we made as comfortable as
our means would allow, and in the keeping of which Minna's
domestic talents came strongly to the fore. As we were still
childless, and were obliged as a rule to enlist the help of a dog
in order to give life to the domestic hearth, we once lighted
upon the eccentric idea of trying our luck with a young wolf
which was brought into the house as a tiny cub. When we found,
however, that this experiment did not increase the comfort of our
home life, we gave him up after he had been with us a few weeks.
We fared better with sister Amalie; for she, with her good-nature
and simple homely ways, did much to make up for the absence of
children for a time. The two sisters, neither of whom had had any
real education, often returned playfully to the ways of their
childhood. When they sang children's duets, Minna, though she had
had no musical training, always managed very cleverly to sing
seconds, and afterwards, as we sat at our evening meal, eating
Russian salad, salt salmon from the Dwina, or fresh Russian
caviare, we were all three very cheerful and happy far away in
our northern home.

Amalie's beautiful voice and real vocal talent at first won for
her a very favourable reception with the public, a fact which did
us all a great deal of good. Being, however, very short, and
having no very great gift for acting, the scope of her powers was
very limited, and as she was soon surpassed by more successful
competitors, it was a real stroke of good luck for her that a
young officer in the Russian army, then Captain, now General,
Carl von Meek, fell head over ears in love with the simple girl,
and married her a year later. The unfortunate part of this
engagement, however, was that it caused many difficulties, and
brought the first cloud over our menage a trois. For, after a
while, the two sisters quarrelled bitterly, and I had the very
unpleasant experience of living for a whole year in the same
house with two relatives who neither saw nor spoke to each other.

We spent the winter at the beginning of 1838 in a very small
dingy dwelling in the old town; it was not till the spring that
we moved into a pleasanter house in the more salubrious
Petersburg suburb, where, in spite of the sisterly breach before
referred to, we led a fairly bright and cheerful life, as we were
often able to entertain many of our friends and acquaintances in
a simple though pleasant fashion. In addition to members of the
stage I knew a few people in the town, and we received and
visited the family of Dorn, the musical director, with whom I
became quite intimate. But it was the second musical director,
Franz Lobmann, a very worthy though not a very gifted man, who
became most faithfully attached to me. However, I did not
cultivate many acquaintances in wider circles, and they grew
fewer as the ruling passion of my life grew steadily stronger; so
that when, later on, I left Riga, after spending nearly two years
there, I departed almost as a stranger, and with as much
indifference as I had left Magdeburg and Konigsberg. What,
however, specially embittered my departure was a series of
experiences of a particularly disagreeable nature, which firmly
determined me to cut myself off entirely from the necessity of
mixing with any people like those I had met with in my previous
attempts to create a position for myself at the theatre.

Yet it was only gradually that I became quite conscious of all
this. At first, under the safe guidance of my renewed wedded
happiness, which had for a time been so disturbed in its early
days, I felt distinctly better than I had before in all my
professional work. The fact that the material position of the
theatrical undertaking was assured exercised a healthy influence
on the performances. The theatre itself was cooped up in a very
narrow space; there was as little room for scenic display on its
tiny stage as there was accommodation for rich musical effects in
the cramped orchestra. In both directions the strictest limits
were imposed, yet I contrived to introduce considerable
reinforcements into an orchestra which was really only calculated
for a string quartette, two first and two second violins, two
violas, and one 'cello. These successful exertions of mine were
the first cause of the dislike Holtei evinced towards me later
on. After this we were able to get good concerted music for the
opera. I found the thorough study of Mehul's opera, Joseph in
Aegypten, very stimulating. Its noble and simple style, added to
the touching effect of the music, which quite carries one away,
did much towards effecting a favourable change in my taste, till
then warped by my connection with the theatre.

It was most gratifying to feel my former serious taste again
aroused by really good dramatic performances. I specially
remember a production of King Lear, which I followed with the
greatest interest, not only at the actual performances, but at
all the rehearsals as well. Yet these educative impressions
tended to make me feel ever more and more dissatisfied with my
work at the theatre. On the one hand, the members of the company
became gradually more distasteful to me, and on the other I was
growing discontented with the management. With regard to the
staff of the theatre, I very soon found out the hollowness,
vanity, and the impudent selfishness of this uncultured and
undisciplined class of people, for I had now lost my former
liking for the Bohemian life that had such an attraction for me
at Magdeburg. Before long there were but a few members of our
company with whom I had not quarrelled, thanks to one or the
other of these drawbacks. But my saddest experience was, that in
such disputes, into which in fact I was led simply by my zeal for
the artistic success of the performances as a whole, not only did
I receive no support from Holtei, the director, but I actually
made him my enemy. He even declared publicly that our theatre had
become far too respectable for his taste, and tried to convince
me that good theatrical performances could not be given by a
strait-laced company.

In his opinion the idea of the dignity of theatrical art was
pedantic nonsense, and he thought light serio-comic vaudeville
the only class of performance worth considering. Serious opera,
rich musical ensemble, was his particular aversion, and my
demands for this irritated him so that he met them only with
scorn and indignant refusals. Of the strange connection between
this artistic bias and his taste in the domain of morality I was
also to become aware, to my horror, in due course. For the
present I felt so repelled by the declaration of his artistic
antipathies, as to let my dislike for the theatre as a profession
steadily grow upon me. I still took pleasure in some good
performances which I was able to get up, under favourable
circumstances, at the larger theatre at Mitau, to where the
company went for a time in the early part of the summer. Yet it
was while I was there, spending most of my time reading Bulwer
Lytton's novels, that I made a secret resolve to try hard to free
myself from all connection with the only branch of theatrical art
which had so far been open to me.

The composition of my Rienzi, the text of which I had finished in
the early days of my sojourn in Riga, was destined to bridge me
over to the glorious world for which I had longed so intensely. I
had laid aside the completion of my Gluckliche Barenfamilie, for
the simple reason that the lighter character of this piece would
have thrown me more into contact with the very theatrical people
I most despised. My greatest consolation now was to prepare
Rienzi with such an utter disregard of the means which were
available there for its production, that my desire to produce it
would force me out of the narrow confines of this puny theatrical
circle to seek a fresh connection with one of the larger
theatres. It was after our return from Mitau, in the middle of
the summer of 1838, that I set to work on this composition, and
by so doing roused myself to a state of enthusiasm which,
considering my position, was nothing less than desperate dare-
devilry. All to whom I confided my plan perceived at once, on the
mere mention of my subject, that I was preparing to break away
from my present position, in which there could be no possibility
of producing my work, and I was looked upon as light-headed and
fit only for an asylum.

To all my acquaintances my procedure seemed stupid and reckless.
Even the former patron of my peculiar Leipzig overture thought it
impracticable and eccentric, seeing that I had again turned my
back on light opera. He expressed this opinion very freely in the
Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik, in a report of a concert I had given
towards the end of the previous winter, and openly ridiculed the
Magdeburg Columbus Overture and the Rule Britannia Overture
previously mentioned. I myself had not taken any pleasure in the
performance of either of these overtures, as my predilection for
cornets, strongly marked in both these overtures, again played me
a sorry trick, as I had evidently expected too much of our Riga
musicians, and had to endure all kinds of disappointment on the
occasion of the performance. As a complete contrast to my
extravagant setting of Rienzi, this same director, H. Dorn, had
set to work to write an opera in which he had most carefully
borne in mind the conditions obtaining at the Riga theatre. Der
Schoffe van Paris, an historical operetta of the period of the
siege of Paris by Joan of Arc, was practised and performed by us
to the complete satisfaction of the composer. However, the
success of this work gave me no reason for abandoning my project
to complete my Rienzi, and I was secretly pleased to find that I
could regard this success without a trace of envy. Though
animated by no feeling of rivalry, I gradually gave up
associating with the Riga artists, confining myself chiefly to
the performance of the duties I had undertaken, and worked away
at the two first acts of my big opera without troubling myself at
all whether I should ever get so far as to see it produced.

The serious and bitter experiences I had had so early in life had
done much to guide me towards that intensely earnest side of my
nature that had manifested itself in my earliest youth. The
effect of these bitter experiences was now to be still further
emphasised by other sad impressions. Not long after Minna had
rejoined me, I received from home the news of the death of my
sister Rosalie. It was the first time in my life that I had
experienced the passing away of one near and dear to me. The
death of this sister struck me as a most cruel and significant
blow of fate; it was out of love and respect for her that I had
turned away so resolutely from my youthful excesses, and it was
to gain her sympathy that I had devoted special thought and care
to my first great works. When the passions and cares of life had
come upon me and driven me away from my home, it was she who had
read deep down into my sorely stricken heart, and who had bidden
me that anxious farewell on my departure from Leipzig. At the
time of my disappearance, when the news of my wilful marriage and
of my consequent unfortunate position reached my family, it was
she who, as my mother informed me later, never lost her faith in
me, but who always cherished the hope that I would one day reach
the full development of my capabilities and make a genuine
success of my life.

Now, at the news of her death, and illuminated by the
recollection of that one impressive farewell, as by a flash of
lightning I saw the immense value my relations with this sister
had been to me, and I did not fully realise the extent of her
influence until later on, when, after my first striking
successes, my mother tearfully lamented that Rosalie had not
lived to witness them. It really did me good to be again in
communication with my family. My mother and sisters had had news
of my doings somehow or other, and I was deeply touched, in the
letters which I was now receiving from them, to hear no
reproaches anent my headstrong and apparently heartless
behaviour, but only sympathy and heartfelt solicitude. My family
had also received favourable reports about my wife's good
qualities, a fact about which I was particularly glad, as I was
thus spared the difficulties of defending her questionable
behaviour to me, which I should have been at pains to excuse.
This produced a salutary calm in my soul, which had so recently
been a prey to the worst anxieties. All that had driven me with
such passionate haste to an improvident and premature marriage,
all that had consequently weighed on me so ruinously, now seemed
set at rest, leaving peace in its stead. And although the
ordinary cares of life still pressed on me for many years, often
in a most vexatious and troublesome form, yet the anxieties
attendant on my ardent youthful wishes were in a manner subdued
and calm. From thence forward till the attainment of my
professional independence, all my life's struggles could be
directed entirely towards that more ideal aim which, from the
time of the conception of my Rienzi, was to be my only guide
through life.

It was only later that I first realised the real character of my
life in Riga, from the utterance of one of its inhabitants, who
was astonished to learn of the success of a man of whose
importance, during the whole of his two years' sojourn in the
small capital of Livonia, nothing had been known. Thrown entirely
on my own resources, I was a stranger to every one. As I
mentioned before, I kept aloof from all the theatre folk, in
consequence of my increasing dislike of them, and therefore, when
at the end of March, 1839, at the close of my second winter
there, I was given my dismissal by the management, although this
occurrence surprised me for other reasons, yet I felt fully
reconciled to this compulsory change in my life. The reasons
which led to this dismissal were, however, of such a nature that
I could only regard it as one of the most disagreeable
experiences of my life. Once, when I was lying dangerously ill, I
heard of Holtei's real feelings towards me. I had caught a severe
cold in the depth of winter at a theatrical rehearsal, and it at
once assumed a serious character, owing to the fact that my
nerves were in a state of constant irritation from the continual
annoyance and vexatious worry caused by the contemptible
character of the theatrical management. It was just at the time
when a special performance of the opera Norma was to be given by
our company in Mitau. Holtei insisted on my getting up from a
sick-bed to make this wintry journey, and thus to expose myself
to the danger of seriously increasing my cold in the icy theatre
at Mitau. Typhoid fever was the consequence, and this pulled me
down to such an extent that Holtei, who heard of my condition, is
said to have remarked at the theatre that I should probably never
conduct again, and that, to all intents and purposes, 'I was on
my last legs.' It was to a splendid homoeopathic physician, Dr.
Prutzer, that I owed my recovery and my life. Not long after that
Holtei left our theatre and Riga for ever; his occupation there,
with 'the far too respectable conditions,' as he expressed it,
had become intolerable to him. In addition, however,
circumstances had arisen in his domestic life (which had been
much affected by the death of his wife) which seemed to make him
consider a complete break with Riga eminently desirable. But to
my astonishment I now first became aware that I too had
unconsciously been a sufferer from the troubles he had brought
upon himself. When Holtei's successor in the management--Joseph
Hoffmann the singer--informed me that his predecessor had made it
a condition to his taking over the post that he should enter into
the same engagement that Holtei had made with the conductor Dorn
for the post which I had hitherto filled, and my reappointment
had therefore been made an impossibility, my wife met my
astonishment at this news by giving me the reason, of which for
some considerable time past she had been well aware, namely,
Holtei's special dislike of us both. When I was afterwards
informed by Minna of what had happened--she having purposely kept
it from me all this time, so as not to cause bad feeling between
me and my director--a ghastly light was thrown upon the whole
affair. I did indeed remember perfectly how, soon after Minna's
arrival in Riga, I had been particularly pressed by Holtei not to
prevent my wife's engagement at the theatre. I asked him to talk
things quietly over with her, so that he might see that Minna's
unwillingness rested on a mutual understanding, and not on any
jealousy on my part. I had intentionally given him the time when
I was engaged at the theatre on rehearsals for the necessary
discussions with my wife. At the end of these meetings I had, on
my return, often found Minna in a very excited condition, and at
length she declared emphatically that under no circumstances
would she accept the engagement offered by Holtei. I had also
noticed in Minna's demeanour towards me a strange anxiety to know
why I was not unwilling to allow Holtei to try to persuade her.
Now that the catastrophe had occurred, I learned that Holtei had
in fact used these interviews for making improper advances to my
wife, the nature of which I only realised with difficulty on
further acquaintance with this man's peculiarities, and after
having heard of other instances of a similar nature. I then
discovered that Holtei considered it an advantage to get himself
talked about in connection with pretty women, in order thus to
divert the attention of the public from other conduct even more
disreputable. After this Minna was exceedingly indignant at
Holtei, who, finding his own suit rejected, appeared as the
medium for another suitor, on whose behalf he urged that he would
think none the worse of her for rejecting him, a grey-haired and
penniless man, but at the same time advocated the suit of
Brandenburg, a very wealthy and handsome young merchant. His
fierce indignation at this double repulse, his humiliation at
having revealed his real nature to no purpose, seems, to judge
from Minna's observations, to have been exceedingly great. I now
understood too well that his frequent and profoundly contemptuous
sallies against respectable actors and actresses had not been
mere spirited exaggerations, but that he had probably often had
to complain of being put thoroughly to shame on this account.

The fact that the playing of such criminal parts as the one he
had had in view with my wife was unable to divert the ever-
increasing attention of the outside world from his vicious and
dissolute habits, does not seem to have escaped him; for those
behind the scenes told me candidly that it was owing to the fear
of very unpleasant revelations that he had suddenly decided to
give up his position at Riga altogether. Even in much later years
I heard about Holtei's bitter dislike of me, a dislike which
showed itself, among other things, in his denunciation of The
Music of the Future, [Footnote: Zukunftsmusik is a pamphlet
revealing some of Wagner's artistic aims and aspirations, written
1860-61.--EDITOR.] and of its tendency to jeopardise the
simplicity of pure sentiment. I have previously mentioned that he
displayed so much personal animosity against me during the latter
part of the time we were together in Riga that he vented his
hostility upon me in every possible way. Up to that time I had
felt inclined to ascribe it to the divergence of our respective
views on artistic points.

To my dismay I now became aware that personal considerations
alone were at the bottom of all this, and I blushed to realise
that by my former unreserved confidence in a man whom I thought
was absolutely honest, I had based my knowledge of human nature
on such very weak foundations. But still greater was my
disappointment when I discovered the real character of my friend
H. Dorn. During the whole time of our intercourse at Riga, he,
who formerly treated me more like a good-natured elder brother,
had become my most confidential friend. We saw and visited each
other almost daily, very frequently in our respective homes. I
kept not a single secret from him, and the performance of his
Schoffe van Paris under my direction was as successful as if it
had been under his own. Now, when I heard that my post had been
given to him, I felt obliged to ask him about it, in order to
learn whether there was any mistake on his part as to my
intention regarding the position I had hitherto held. But from
his letter in reply I could clearly see that Dorn had really made
use of Holtei's dislike for me to extract from him, before his
departure, an arrangement which was both binding on his successor
and also in his (Dorn's) own favour. As my friend he ought to
have known that he could benefit by this agreement only in the
event of my resigning my appointment in Riga, because in our
confidential conversations, which continued to the end, he always
carefully refrained from touching on the possibility of my going
away or remaining. In fact, he declared that Holtei had
distinctly told him he would on no account re-engage me, as I
could not get on with the singers. He added that after this one
could not take it amiss if he, who had been inspired with fresh
enthusiasm for the theatre by the success of his Schoffe von
Paris, had seized and turned to his own advantage the chance
offered to him. Moreover, he had gathered from my confidential
communications that I was very awkwardly situated, and that,
owing to my small salary having been cut down by Holtei from the
very beginning, I was in a very precarious position on account of
the demands of my creditors in Konigsberg and Magdeburg. It
appeared that these people had employed against me a lawyer, who
was a friend of Dorn's, and that, consequently, he had come to
the conclusion that I would not be able to remain in Riga.
Therefore, even as my friend, he had felt his conscience quite
clear in accepting Holtei's proposal.

In order not to leave him in the complacent enjoyment of this
self-deception, I put it clearly before him that he could not be
ignorant of the fact that a higher salary had been promised to me
for the third year of my contract; and that, by the establishment
of orchestral concerts, which had already made a favourable
start, I now saw my way to getting free from those long-standing
debts, having already overcome the difficulties of the removal
and settling down. I also asked him how he would act if I saw it
was to my own interest to retain my post, and to call on him to
resign his agreement with Holtei, who, as a matter of fact, after
his departure from Riga, had withdrawn his alleged reason for my
dismissal. To this I received no answer, nor have I had one up to
the present day; but, on the other hand, in 1865, I was
astonished to see Dorn enter my house in Munich unannounced, and
when to his joy I recognised him, he stepped up to me with a
gesture which clearly showed his intention of embracing me.
Although I managed to evade this, yet I soon saw the difficulty
of preventing him from addressing me with the familiar form of
'thou,' as the attempt to do so would have necessitated
explanations that would have been a useless addition to all my
worries just then; for it was the time when my Tristan was being

Such a man was Heinrich Dorn. Although, after the failure of
three operas, he had retired in disgust from the theatre to
devote himself exclusively to the commercial side of music, yet
the success of his opera, Der Schoffe von Paris, in Riga helped
him back to a permanent place among the dramatic musicians of
Germany. But to this position he was first dragged from
obscurity, across the bridge of infidelity to his friend, and by
the aid of virtue in the person of Director Holtei, thanks to a
magnanimous oversight on the part of Franz Listz. The preference
of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. for church scenes contributed to
secure him eventually his important position at the greatest
lyric theatre in Germany, the Royal Opera of Berlin. For he was
prompted far less by his devotion to the dramatic muse than by
his desire to secure a good position in some important German
city, when, as already hinted, through Liszt's recommendation he
was appointed musical director of Cologne Cathedral. During a
fete connected with the building of the cathedral he managed, as
a musician, so to work upon the Prussian monarch's religious
feelings, that he was appointed to the dignified post of musical
conductor at the Royal Theatre, in which capacity he long
continued to do honour to German dramatic music in conjunction
with Wilhelm Taubert.

I must give J. Hoffmann, who from this time forward was the
manager of the Riga theatre, the credit of having felt the
treachery practised upon me very deeply indeed. He told me that
his contract with Dorn bound him only for one year, and that the
moment the twelve months had elapsed he wished to come to a fresh
agreement with me. As soon as this was known, my patrons in Riga
came forward with offers of teaching engagements and arrangements
for sundry concerts, by way of compensating me for the year's
salary which I should lose by being away from my work as a
conductor. Though I was much gratified by these offers, yet, as I
have already pointed out, the longing to break loose from the
kind of theatrical life which I had experienced up to that time
so possessed me that I resolutely seized this chance of
abandoning my former vocation for an entirely new one. Not
without some shrewdness, I played upon my wife's indignation at
the treachery I had suffered, in order to make her fall in with
my eccentric notion of going to Paris. Already in my conception
of Rienzi I had dreamed of the most magnificent theatrical
conditions, but now, without halting at any intermediate
stations, my one desire was to reach the very heart of all
European grand opera. While still in Magdeburg I had made H.
Konig's romance, Die Hohe Braut, the subject of a grand opera in
five acts, and in the most luxurious French style. After the
scenic draft of this opera, which had been translated into
French, was completely worked out, I sent it from Konigsberg to
Scribe in Paris. With this manuscript I sent a letter to the
famous operatic poet, in which I suggested that he might make use
of my plot, on condition that he would secure me the composition
of the music for the Paris Opera House. To convince him of my
ability to compose Parisian operatic music, I also sent him the
score of my Liebesverbot. At the same time I wrote to Meyerbeer,
informing him of my plans, and begging him to support me. I was
not at all disheartened at receiving no reply, for I was content
to know that now at last 'I was in communication with Paris.'
When, therefore, I started out upon my daring journey from Riga,
I seemed to have a comparatively serious object in view, and my
Paris projects no longer struck me as being altogether in the
air. In addition to this I now heard that my youngest sister,
Cecilia, had become betrothed to a certain Eduard Avenarius, an
employee of the Brockhaus book-selling firm, and that he had
undertaken the management of their Paris branch. To him I applied
for news of Scribe, and for an answer to the application I had
made to that gentleman some years previously. Avenarius called on
Scribe, and from him received an acknowledgment of the receipt of
my earlier communication. Scribe also showed that he had some
recollection of the subject itself; for he said that, so far as
he could remember, there was a joueuse de harpe in the piece, who
was ill-treated by her brother. The fact that this merely
incidental item had alone remained in his memory led me to
conclude that he had not extended his acquaintance with the piece
beyond the first act, in which the item in question occurs. When,
moreover, I heard that he had nothing to say in regard to my
score, except that he had had portions of it played over to him
by a pupil of the Conservatoire, I really could not flatter
myself that he had entered into definite and conscious relations
with me. And yet I had palpable evidence in a letter of his to
Avenarius, which the latter forwarded to me, that Scribe had
actually occupied himself with my work, and that I was indeed in
communication with him, and this letter of Scribe's made such an
impression upon my wife, who was by no means inclined to be
sanguine, that she gradually overcame her apprehensions in regard
to the Paris adventure. At last it was fixed and settled that on
the expiry of my second year's contract in Riga (that is to say,
in the coming summer, 1839), we should journey direct from Riga
to Paris, in order that I might try my luck there as a composer
of opera.

The production of my Rienzi now began to assume greater
importance. The composition of its second act was finished before
we started, and into this I wove a heroic ballet of extravagant
dimensions. It was now imperative that I should speedily acquire
a knowledge of French, a language which, during my classical
studies at the Grammar School, I had contemptuously laid aside.
As there were only four weeks in which to recover the time I had
lost, I engaged an excellent French master. But as I soon
realised that I could achieve but little in so short a time, I
utilised the hours of the lessons in order to obtain from him,
under the pretence of receiving instruction, an idiomatic
translation of my Rienzi libretto. This I wrote with red ink on
such parts of the score as were finished, so that on reaching
Paris I might immediately submit my half-finished opera to French
judges of art.

Everything now seemed to be carefully prepared for my departure,
and all that remained to be done was to raise the necessary funds
for my undertaking. But in this respect the outlook was bad. The
sale of our modest household furniture, the proceeds of a benefit
concert, and my meagre savings only sufficed to satisfy the
importunate demands of my creditors in Magdeburg and Konigsberg.
I knew that if I were to devote all my cash to this purpose,
there would not be a farthing left. Some way out of the fix must
be found, and this our old Konigsberg friend, Abraham Moller,
suggested in his usual flippant and obscure manner. Just at this
critical moment he paid us a second visit to Riga. I acquainted
him with the difficulties of our position, and all the obstacles
which stood in the way of my resolve to go to Paris. In his
habitual laconical way he counselled me to reserve all my savings
for our journey, and to settle with my creditors when my Parisian
successes had provided the necessary means. To help us in
carrying out this plan, he offered to convey us in his carriage
across the Russian frontier at top speed to an East Prussian
port. We should have to cross the Russian frontier without
passports, as these had been already impounded by our foreign
creditors. He assured us that we should find it quite simple to
carry out this very hazardous expedition, and declared that he
had a friend on a Prussian estate close to the frontier who would
render us very effective assistance. My eagerness to escape at
any price from my previous circumstances, and to enter with all
possible speed upon the wider field, in which I hoped very soon
to realise my ambition, blinded me to all the unpleasantnesses
which the execution of his proposal must entail. Director
Hoffmann, who considered himself bound to serve me to the utmost
of his ability, facilitated my departure by allowing me to leave
some months before the expiration of my engagement. After
continuing to conduct the operatic portion of the Mitau
theatrical season through the month of June, we secretly started
in a special coach hired by Moller and under his protection. The
goal of our journey was Paris, but many unheard-of hardships were
in store for us before we were to reach that city.

The sense of contentment involuntarily aroused by our passage
through the fruitful Courland in the luxuriant month of July, and
by the sweet illusion that now at last I had cut myself loose
from a hateful existence, to enter upon a new and boundless path
of fortune, was disturbed from its very outset by the miserable
inconveniences occasioned by the presence of a huge Newfoundland
dog called Robber. This beautiful creature, originally the
property of a Riga merchant, had, contrary to the nature of his
race, become devotedly attached to me. After I had left Riga, and
during my long stay in Mitau, Robber incessantly besieged my
empty house, and so touched the hearts of my landlord and the
neighbours by his fidelity, that they sent the dog after me by
the conductor of the coach to Mitau, where I greeted him with
genuine effusion, and swore that, in spite of all difficulties, I
would never part with him again. Whatever might happen, the dog
must go with us to Paris. And yet, even to get him into the
carriage proved almost impossible. All my endeavours to find him
a place in or about the vehicle were in vain, and, to my great
grief, I had to watch the huge northern beast, with his shaggy
coat, gallop all day long in the blazing sun beside the carriage.
At last, moved to pity by his exhaustion, and unable to bear the
sight any longer, I hit upon a most ingenious plan for bringing
the great animal with us into the carriage, where, in spite of
its being full to overflowing, he was just able to find room.

On the evening of the second day we reached the Russo-Prussian
frontier. Moller's evident anxiety as to whether we should be
able to cross it safely showed us plainly that the matter was one
of some danger. His good friend from the other side duly turned
up with a small carriage, as arranged, and in this conveyance
drove Minna, myself, and Robber through by paths to a certain
point, whence he led us on foot to a house of exceedingly
suspicious exterior, where, after handing us over to a guide, he
left us. There we had to wait until sundown, and had ample
leisure in which to realise that we were in a smugglers' drinking
den, which gradually became filled to suffocation with Polish
Jews of most forbidding aspect.

At last we were summoned to follow our guide. A few hundred feet
away, on the slope of a hill, lay the ditch which runs the whole
length of the Russian frontier, watched continually and at very
narrow intervals by Cossacks. Our chance was to utilise the few
moments after the relief of the watch, during which the sentinels
were elsewhere engaged. We had, therefore, to run at full speed
down the hill, scramble through the ditch, and then hurry along
until we were beyond the range of the soldiers' guns; for the
Cossacks were bound in case of discovery to fire upon us even on
the other side of the ditch. In spite of my almost passionate
anxiety for Minna, I had observed with singular pleasure the
intelligent behaviour of Robber, who, as though conscious of the
danger, silently kept close to our side, and entirely dispelled
my fear that he would give trouble during our dangerous passage.
At last our trusted helpmeet reappeared, and was so delighted
that he hugged us all in his arms. Then, placing us once more in
his carriage, he drove us to the inn of the Prussian frontier
village, where my friend Moller, positively sick with anxiety,
leaped sobbing and rejoicing out of bed to greet us.

It was only now that I began to realise the danger to which I had
exposed, not only myself, but also my poor Minna, and the folly
of which I had been guilty through my ignorance of the terrible
difficulties of secretly crossing the frontier--difficulties
concerning which Moller had foolishly allowed me to remain in

I was simply at a loss to convey to my poor exhausted wife how
extremely I regretted the whole affair.

And yet the difficulties we had just overcome were but the
prelude to the calamities incidental to this adventurous journey
which had such a decisive influence on my life. The following
day, when, with courage renewed, we drove through the rich plain
of Tilsit to Arnau, near Konigsberg, we decided, as the next
stage of our journey, to proceed from the Prussian harbour of
Pillau by sailing vessel to London. Our principal reason for this
was the consideration of the dog we had with us. It was the
easiest way to take him. To convey him by coach from Konigsberg
to Paris was out of the question, and railways were unknown. But
another consideration was our budget; the whole result of my
desperate efforts amounted to not quite one hundred ducats, which
were to cover not only the journey to Paris, but our expenses
there until I should have earned something. Therefore, after a
few days' rest in the inn at Arnau, we drove to the little
seaport town of Pillau, again accompanied by Moller, in one of
the ordinary local conveyances, which was not much better than a
wagon. In order to avoid Konigsberg, we passed through the
smaller villages and over bad roads. Even this short distance was
not to be covered without accident. The clumsy conveyance upset
in a farmyard, and Minna was so severely indisposed by the
accident, owing to an internal shock, that I had to drag her--
with the greatest difficulty, as she was quite helpless--to a
peasant's house. The people were surly and dirty, and the night
we spent there was a painful one for the poor sufferer. A delay
of several days occurred before the departure of the Pillau
vessel, but this was welcome as a respite to allow of Minna's
recovery. Finally, as the captain was to take us without a
passport, our going on board was accompanied by exceptional
difficulties. We had to contrive to slip past the harbour watch
to our vessel in a small boat before daybreak. Once on board, we
still had the troublesome task of hauling Robber up the steep
side of the vessel without attracting attention, and after that
to conceal ourselves at once below deck, in order to escape the
notice of officials visiting the ship before its departure. The
anchor was weighed, and at last, as the land faded gradually out
of sight, we thought we could breathe freely and feel at ease.

We were on board a merchant vessel of the smallest type. She was
called the Thetis; a bust of the nymph was erected in the bows,
and she carried a crew of seven men, including the captain. With
good weather, such as was to be expected in summer, the journey
to London was estimated to take eight days. However, before we
had left the Baltic, we were delayed by a prolonged calm. I made
use of the time to improve my knowledge of French by the study of
a novel, La Derniere Aldini, by George Sand. We also derived some
entertainment from associating with the crew. There was an
elderly and peculiarly taciturn sailor named Koske, whom we
observed carefully because Robber, who was usually so friendly,
had taken an irreconcilable dislike to him. Oddly enough, this
fact was to add in some degree to our troubles in the hour of
danger. After seven days' sailing we were no further than
Copenhagen, where, without leaving the vessel, we seized an
opportunity of making our very spare diet on board more bearable
by various purchases of food and drink. In good spirits we sailed
past the beautiful castle of Elsinore, the sight of which brought
me into immediate touch with my youthful impressions of Hamlet.
We were sailing all unsuspecting through the Cattegat to the
Skagerack, when the wind, which had at first been merely
unfavourable, and had forced us to a process of weary tacking,
changed on the second day to a violent storm. For twenty-four
hours we had to struggle against it under disadvantages which
were quite new to us. In the captain's painfully narrow cabin, in
which one of us was without a proper berth, we were a prey to
sea-sickness and endless alarms. Unfortunately, the brandy cask,
at which the crew fortified themselves during their strenuous
work, was let into a hollow under the seat on which I lay at full
length. Now it happened to be Koske who came most frequently in
search of the refreshment which was such a nuisance to me, and
this in spite of the fact that on each occasion he had to
encounter Robber in mortal combat. The dog flew at him with
renewed rage each time he came climbing down the narrow steps. I
was thus compelled to make efforts which, in my state of complete
exhaustion from sea-sickness, rendered my condition every time
more critical. At last, on 27th July, the captain was compelled
by the violence of the west wind to seek a harbour on the
Norwegian coast. And how relieved I was to behold that far-
reaching rocky coast, towards which we were being driven at such
speed! A Norwegian pilot came to meet us in a small boat, and,
with experienced hand, assumed control of the Thetis, whereupon
in a very short time I was to have one of the most marvellous and
most beautiful impressions of my life. What I had taken to be a
continuous line of cliffs turned out on our approach to be a
series of separate rocks projecting from the sea. Having sailed
past them, we perceived that we were surrounded, not only in
front and at the sides, but also at our back, by these reefs,
which closed in behind us so near together that they seemed to
form a single chain of rocks. At the same time the hurricane was
so broken by the rocks in our rear that the further we sailed
through this ever-changing labyrinth of projecting rocks, the
calmer the sea became, until at last the vessel's progress was
perfectly smooth and quiet as we entered one of those long sea-
roads running through a giant ravine--for such the Norwegian
fjords appeared to me.

A feeling of indescribable content came over me when the enormous
granite walls echoed the hail of the crew as they cast anchor and
furled the sails. The sharp rhythm of this call clung to me like
an omen of good cheer, and shaped itself presently into the theme
of the seamen's song in my Fliegender Hollander. The idea of this
opera was, even at that time, ever present in my mind, and it now
took on a definite poetic and musical colour under the influence
of my recent impressions. Well, our next move was to go on shore.
I learned that the little fishing village at which we landed was
called Sandwike, and was situated a few miles away from the much
larger town of Arendal. We were allowed to put up at the
hospitable house of a certain ship's captain, who was then away
at sea, and here we were able to take the rest we so much needed,
as the unabated violence of the wind in the open detained us
there two days. On 31st July the captain insisted on leaving,
despite the pilot's warning. We had been on board the Thetis a
few hours, and were in the act of eating a lobster for the first
time in our lives, when the captain and the sailors began to
swear violently at the pilot, whom I could see at the helm, rigid
with fear, striving to avoid a reef--barely visible above the
water--towards which our ship was being driven. Great was our
terror at this violent tumult, for we naturally thought ourselves
in the most extreme danger. The vessel did actually receive a
severe shock, which, to my vivid imagination, seemed like the
splitting up of the whole ship. Fortunately, however, it
transpired that only the side of our vessel had fouled the reef,
and there was no immediate danger. Nevertheless, the captain
deemed it necessary to steer for a harbour to have the vessel
examined, and we returned to the coast and anchored at another
point. The captain then offered to take us in a small boat with
two sailors to Tromsond, a town of some importance situated at a
few hours' distance, where he had to invite the harbour officials
to examine his ship. This again proved a most attractive and
impressive excursion. The view of one fjord in particular, which
extended far inland, worked on my imagination like some unknown,
awe-inspiring desert. This impression was intensified, during a
long walk from Tromsond up to the plateau, by the terribly
depressing effect of the dun moors, bare of tree or shrub,
boasting only a covering of scanty moss, which stretch away to
the horizon, and merge imperceptibly into the gloomy sky. It was
long after dark when we returned from this trip in our little
boat, and my wife was very anxious. The next morning (1st
August), reassured as to the condition of the vessel, and the
wind favouring us, we were able to go to sea without further

After four days' calm sailing a strong north wind arose, which
drove us at uncommon speed in the right direction. We began to
think ourselves nearly at the end of our journey when, on 6th
August, the wind changed, and the storm began to rage with
unheard-of violence. On the 7th, a Wednesday, at half-past two in
the afternoon, we thought ourselves in imminent danger of death.
It was not the terrible force with which the vessel was hurled up
and down, entirely at the mercy of this sea monster, which
appeared now as a fathomless abyss, now as a steep mountain peak,
that filled me with mortal dread; my premonition of some terrible
crisis was aroused by the despondency of the crew, whose
malignant glances seemed superstitiously to point to us as the
cause of the threatening disaster. Ignorant of the trifling
occasion for the secrecy of our journey, the thought may have
occurred to them that our need of escape had arisen from
suspicious or even criminal circumstances. The captain himself
seemed, in his extreme distress, to regret having taken us on
board; for we had evidently brought him ill-luck on this familiar
passage--usually a rapid and uncomplicated one, especially in
summer. At this particular moment there raged, beside the tempest
on the water, a furious thunderstorm overhead, and Minna
expressed the fervent wish to be struck by lightning with me
rather than to sink, living, into the fearful flood. She even
begged me to bind her to me, so that we might not be parted as we
sank. Yet another night was spent amid these incessant terrors,
which only our extreme exhaustion helped to mitigate.

The following day the storm had subsided; the wind remained
unfavourable, but was mild. The captain now tried to find our
bearings by means of his astronomical instruments. He complained
of the sky, which had been overcast so many days, swore that he
would give much for a single glimpse of the sun or the stars, and
did not conceal the uneasiness he felt at not being able to
indicate our whereabouts with certainty. He consoled himself,
however, by following a ship which was sailing some knots ahead
in the same direction, and whose movements he observed closely
through the telescope. Suddenly he sprang up in great alarm, and
gave a vehement order to change our course. He had seen the ship
in front go aground on a sand-bank, from which, he asserted, she
could not extricate herself; for he now realised that we were
near the most dangerous part of the belt of sand-banks bordering
the Dutch coast for a considerable distance. By dint of very
skilful sailing, we were enabled to keep the opposite course
towards the English coast, which we in fact sighted on the
evening of 9th August, in the neighbourhood of Southwold. I felt
new life come into me when I saw in the far distance the English
pilots racing for our ship. As competition is free among pilots
on the English coast, they come out as far as possible to meet
incoming vessels, even when the risks are very great.

The winner in our case was a powerful grey-haired man, who, after
much vain battling with the seething waves, which tossed his
light boat away from our ship at each attempt, at last succeeded
in boarding the Thetis. (Our poor, hardly-used boat still bore
the name, although the wooden figure-head of our patron nymph had
been hurled into the sea during our first storm in the Cattegat--
an ill-omened incident in the eyes of the crew.) We were filled
with pious gratitude when this quiet English sailor, whose hands
were torn and bleeding from his repeated efforts to catch the
rope thrown to him on his approach, took over the rudder. His
whole personality impressed us most agreeably, and he seemed to
us the absolute guarantee of a speedy deliverance from our
terrible afflictions. We rejoiced too soon, however, for we still
had before us the perilous passage through the sand-banks off the
English coast, where, as I was assured, nearly four hundred ships
are wrecked on an average every year. We were fully twenty-four
hours (from the evening of the 10th to the 11th of August) amid
these sandbanks, fighting a westerly gale, which hindered our
progress so seriously that we only reached the mouth of the
Thames on the evening of the 12th of August. My wife had, up to
that point, been so nervously affected by the innumerable danger
signals, consisting chiefly of small guardships painted bright
red and provided with bells on account of the fog, that she could
not close her eyes, day or night, for the excitement of watching
for them and pointing them out to the sailors. I, on the
contrary, found these heralds of human proximity and deliverance
so consoling that, despite Minna's reproaches, I indulged in a
long refreshing sleep. Now that we were anchored in the mouth of
the Thames, waiting for daybreak, I found myself in the best of
spirits; I dressed, washed, and even shaved myself up on deck
near the mast, while Minna and the whole exhausted crew were
wrapped in deep slumber. And with deepening interest I watched
the growing signs of life in this famous estuary. Our desire for
a complete release from our detested confinement led us, after we
had sailed a little way up, to hasten our arrival in London by
going on board a passing steamer at Gravesend. As we neared the
capital, our astonishment steadily increased at the number of
ships of all sorts that filled the river, the houses, the
streets, the famous docks, and other maritime constructions which
lined the banks. When at last we reached London Bridge, this
incredibly crowded centre of the greatest city in the world, and
set foot on land after our terrible three weeks' voyage, a
pleasurable sensation of giddiness overcame us as our legs
carried us staggering through the deafening uproar. Robber seemed
to be similarly affected, for he whisked round the corners like a
mad thing, and threatened to get lost every other minute. But we
soon sought safety in a cab, which took us, on our captain's
recommendation, to the Horseshoe Tavern, near the Tower, and here
we had to make our plans for the conquest of this giant

The neighbourhood in which we found ourselves was such that we
decided to leave it with all possible haste. A very friendly
little hunchbacked Jew from Hamburg suggested better quarters in
the West End, and I remember vividly our drive there, in one of
the tiny narrow cabs then in use, the journey lasting fully an
hour. They were built to carry two people, who had to sit facing
each other, and we therefore had to lay our big dog crosswise
from window to window. The sights we saw from our whimsical nook
surpassed anything we had imagined, and we arrived at our
boarding-house in Old Compton Street agreeably stimulated by the
life and the overwhelming size of the great city. Although at the
age of twelve I had made what I supposed to be a translation of a
monologue from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, I found my
knowledge of English quite inadequate when it came to conversing
with the landlady of the King's Arms. But the good dame's social
condition as a sea-captain's widow led her to think she could
talk French to me, and her attempts made me wonder which of us
knew least of that language. And then a most disturbing incident
occurred--we missed Robber, who must have run away at the door
instead of following us into the house. Our distress at having
lost our good dog after having brought him all the way there with
such difficulty occupied us exclusively during the first two
hours we spent in this new home on land. We kept constant watch
at the window until, of a sudden, we joyfully recognised Robber
strolling unconcernedly towards the house from a side street.
Afterwards we learned that our truant had wandered as far as
Oxford Street in search of adventures, and I have always
considered his amazing return to a house which he had not even
entered as a strong proof of the absolute certainty of the
animal's instincts in the matter of memory.

We now had time to realise the tiresome after-effects of the
voyage. The continuous swaying of the floor and our clumsy
efforts to keep from falling we found fairly entertaining; but
when we came to take our well-earned rest in the huge English
double bed, and found that that too rocked up and down, it became
quite unbearable. Every time we closed our eyes we sank into
frightful abysses, and, springing up again, cried out for help.
It seemed as if that terrible voyage would go on to the end of
our lives. Added to this we felt miserably sick; for, after the
atrocious food on board, we had been only too ready to partake,
with less discretion than relish, of tastier fare.

We were so exhausted by all these trials that we forgot to
consider what was, after all, the vital question--the probable
result in hard cash. Indeed, the marvels of the great city proved
so fascinating, that we started off in a cab, for all the world
as if we were on a pleasure trip, to follow up a plan I had
sketched on my map of London. In our wonder and delight at what
we saw, we quite forgot all we had gone through. Costly as it
proved, I considered our week's stay justified in view of Minna's
need of rest in the first place, and secondly, the excellent
opportunity it afforded me of making acquaintances in the musical
world. During my last visit to Dresden I had sent Rule Britannia,
the overture composed at Konigsberg, to Sir John Smart, president
of the Philharmonic Society. It is true he had never acknowledged
it, but I felt it the more incumbent on me to bring him to task
about it. I therefore spent some days trying to find out where he
lived, wondering meanwhile in which language I should have to
make myself understood, but as the result of my inquiries I
discovered that Smart was not in London at all. I next persuaded
myself that it would be a good thing to look up Bulwer Lytton,
and to come to an understanding about the operatic performance of
his novel, Rienzi, which I had dramatised. Having been told, on
the continent, that Bulwer was a member of Parliament, I went to
the House, after a few days, to inquire on the spot. My total
ignorance of the English language stood me in good stead here,
and I was treated with unexpected consideration; for, as none of
the lower officials in that vast building could make out what I
wanted, I was sent, step by step, to one high dignitary after the
other, until at last I was introduced to a distinguished-looking
man, who came out of a large hall as we passed, as an entirely
unintelligible individual. (Minna was with me all the time; only
Robber. had been left behind at the King's Arms.) He asked me
very civilly what I wanted, in French, and seemed favourably
impressed when I inquired for the celebrated author. He was
obliged to tell me, however, that he was not in London. I went on
to ask whether I could not be admitted to a debate, but was told
that, in consequence of the old Houses of Parliament having been
burnt down, they were using temporary premises where the space
was so limited that only a few favoured visitors could procure
cards of admittance. But on my pressing more urgently he relented,
and shortly after opened a door leading direct into the
strangers' seats in the House of Lords. It seemed reasonable to
conclude from this that our friend was a lord in person. I was
immensely interested to see and hear the Premier, Lord Melbourne,
and Brougham (who seemed to me to take a very active part in the
proceedings, prompting Melbourne several times, as I thought),
and the Duke of Wellington, who looked so comfortable in his grey
beaver hat, with his hands diving deep into his trousers pockets,
and who made his speech in so conversational a tone that I lost
my feeling of excessive awe. He had a curious way, too, of
accenting his points of special emphasis by shaking his whole
body, I was also much interested in Lord Lyndhurst, Brougham's
particular enemy, and was amazed to see Brougham go across
several times to sit down coolly beside him, apparently with a
view to prompting even his opponent. The matter in hand was, as I
learned afterwards from the papers, the discussion of measures to
be taken against the Portuguese Government to ensure the passing
of the Anti-Slavery Bill. The Bishop of London, who was one of
the speakers on this occasion, was the only one of these
gentlemen whose voice and manner seemed to me stiff or unnatural,
but possibly I was prejudiced by my dislike of parsons generally.

After this pleasing adventure I imagined I had exhausted the
attractions of London for the present, for although I could not
gain admittance to the Lower House, my untiring friend, whom I
came across again as I went out, showed me the room where the
Commons sat, explained as much as was necessary, and gave me a
sight of the Speaker's woolsack, and of his mace lying hidden
under the table. He also gave me such careful details of various
things that I felt I knew all there was to know about the capital
of Great Britain. I had not the smallest intention of going to
the Italian opera, possibly because I imagined the prices to be
too ruinous. We thoroughly explored all the principal streets,
often tiring ourselves out; we shuddered through a ghastly London
Sunday, and wound up with a train trip (our very first) to
Gravesend Park, in the company of the captain of the Thetis. On
the 20th of August we crossed over to France by steamer, arriving
the same evening at Boulogne-sur-mer, where we took leave of the
sea with the fervent desire never to go on it again.

We were both of us secretly convinced that we should meet with
disappointments in Paris, and it was partly on that account that
we decided to spend a few weeks at or near Boulogne. It was, in
any case, too early in the season to find the various important
people whom I proposed to see, in town; on the other hand, it
seemed to me a most fortunate circumstance that Meyerbeer should
happen to be at Boulogne. Also, I had the instrumentation of part
of the second act of Rienzi to finish, and was bent on having at
least half of the work ready to show on my arrival in the costly
French capital. We therefore set out to find less expensive
accommodation in the country round Boulogne. Beginning with the
immediate neighbourhood, our search ended in our taking two
practically unfurnished rooms in the detached house of a rural
wine merchant's, situated on the main road to Paris at half an
hour's distance from Boulogne. We next provided scanty but
adequate furniture, and in bringing our wits to bear upon this
matter Minna particularly distinguished herself. Besides a bed
and two chairs, we dug up a table, which, after I had cleared
away my Rienzi papers, served for our meals, which we had to
prepare at our own fireside.

While we were here I made my first call on Meyerbeer. I had often
read in the papers of his proverbial amiability, and bore him no
ill-will for not replying to my letter. My favourable opinion was
soon to be confirmed, however, by his kind reception of me. The
impression he made was good in every respect, particularly as
regards his appearance. The years had not yet given his features
the flabby look which sooner or later mars most Jewish faces, and
the fine formation of his brow round about the eyes gave him an
expression of countenance that inspired confidence. He did not
seem in the least inclined to depreciate my intention of trying
my luck in Paris as a composer of opera; he allowed me to read
him my libretto for Rienzi, and really listened up to the end of
the third act. He kept the two acts that were complete, saying
that he wished to look them over, and assured me, when I again
called on him, of his whole-hearted interest in my work. Be this
as it may, it annoyed me somewhat that he should again and again
fall back on praising my minute handwriting, an accomplishment he
considered especially Saxonian. He promised to give me letters of
recommendation to Duponchel, the manager of the Opera House, and
to Habeneck, the conductor. I now felt that I had good cause to
extol my good fortune which, after many vicissitudes, had sent me
precisely to this particular spot in France. What better fortune
could have befallen me than to secure, in so short a time, the
sympathetic interest of the most famous composer of French opera!
Meyerbeer took me to see Moscheles, who was then in Boulogne, and
also Fraulein Blahedka, a celebrated virtuoso whose name I had
known for many years. I spent a few informal musical evenings at
both houses, and thus came into close touch with musical
celebrities, an experience quite new to me.

I had written to my future brother-in-law, Avernarius, in Paris,
to ask him to find us suitable accommodations, and we started on
our journey thither on 16th September in the diligence, my
efforts to hoist Robber on to the top being attended by the usual

My first impression of Paris proved disappointing in view of the
great expectations I had cherished of that city; after London it
seemed to me narrow and confined. I had imagined the famous
boulevards to be much vaster, for instance, and was really
annoyed, when the huge coach put us down in the Rue de la
Juissienne, to think that I should first set foot on Parisian
soil in such a wretched little alley. Neither did the Rue
Richelieu, where my brother-in-law had his book-shop, seem
imposing after the streets in the west end of London. As for the
chambre garnie, which had been engaged for me in the Rue de la
Tonnellerie, one of the narrow side-streets which link the Rue
St. Honore with the Marche des Innocents, I felt positively
degraded at having to take up my abode there. I needed all the
consolation that could be derived from an inscription, placed
under a bust of Moliere, which read: maison ou naquit Moliere, to
raise my courage after the mean impression the house had first
made upon me. The room, which had been prepared for us on the
fourth floor, was small but cheerful, decently furnished, and
inexpensive. From the windows we could see the frightful bustle
in the market below, which became more and more alarming as we
watched it, and I wondered what we were doing in such a quarter.

Shortly after this, Avenarius had to go to Leipzig to bring home
his bride, my youngest sister Cecilia, after the wedding in that
city. Before leaving, he gave me an introduction to his only
musical acquaintance, a German holding an appointment in the
music department of the Bibliotheque Royale, named E. G. Anders,
who lost no time in looking us up in Moliere's house. He was, as
I soon discovered, a man of very unusual character, and, little
as he was able to help me, he left an affecting and ineffaceable
impression on my memory. He was a bachelor in the fifties, whose
reverses had driven him to the sad necessity of earning a living
in Paris entirely without assistance. He had fallen back on the
extraordinary bibliographical knowledge which, especially in
reference to music, it had been his hobby to acquire in the days
of his prosperity. His real name he never told me, wishing to
guard the secret of that, as of his misfortunes, until after his
death. For the time being he told me only that he was known as
Anders, was of noble descent, and had held property on the Rhine,
but that he had lost everything owing to the villainous betrayal
of his gullibility and good-nature. The only thing he had managed
to save was his very considerable library, the size of which I
was able to estimate for myself. It filled every wall of his
small dwelling. Even here in Paris he soon complained of bitter
enemies; for, in spite of having come furnished with an
introduction to influential people, he still held the inferior
position of an employee in the library. In spite of his long
service there and his great learning, he had to see really
ignorant men promoted over his head. I discovered afterwards that
the real reason lay in his unbusinesslike methods, and the
effeminacy consequent on the delicate way in which he had been
nurtured in early life, which made him incapable of developing the
energy necessary for his work. On a miserable pittance of fifteen
hundred francs a year, he led a weary existence, full of anxiety.
With nothing in view but a lonely old age, and the probability of
dying in a hospital, it seemed as if our society put new life
into him; for though we were poverty-stricken, we looked forward
boldly and hopefully to the future. My vivacity and invincible
energy filled him with hopes of my success, and from this time
forward he took a most tender and unselfish part in furthering my
interests. Although he was a contributor to the Gazette Musicale,
edited by Moritz Schlesinger, he had never succeeded in making
his influence felt there in the slightest degree. He had none of
the versatility of a journalist, and the editors entrusted him
with little besides the preparation of bibliographical notes.
Oddly enough, it was with this unworldly and least resourceful of
men that I had to discuss my plan for the conquest of Paris, that
is, of musical Paris, which is made up of all the most
questionable characters imaginable. The result was practically
always the same; we merely encouraged each other in the hope that
some unforeseen stroke of luck would help my cause.

To assist us in these discussions Anders called in his friend and
housemate Lehrs, a philologist, my acquaintance with whom was
soon to develop into one of the most beautiful friendships of my
life. Lehrs was the younger brother of a famous scholar at
Konigsberg. He had left there to come to Paris some years before,
with the object of gaining an independent position by his
philological work. This he preferred, in spite of the attendant
difficulties, to a post as teacher with a salary which only in
Germany could be considered sufficient for a scholar's wants. He
soon obtained work from Didot, the bookseller, as assistant
editor of a large edition of Greek classics, but the editor
traded on his poverty, and was much more concerned about the
success of his enterprise than about the condition of his poor
collaborator. Lehrs had therefore perpetually to struggle against
poverty, but he preserved an even temper, and showed himself in
every way a model of disinterestedness and self-sacrifice. At
first he looked upon me only as a man in need of advice, and
incidentally a fellow-sufferer in Paris; for he had no knowledge
of music, and had no particular interest in it. We soon became so
intimate that I had him dropping in nearly every evening with
Anders, Lehrs being extremely useful to his friend, whose
unsteadiness in walking obliged him to use an umbrella and a
walking-stick as crutches. He was also nervous in crossing
crowded thorough-fares, and particularly so at night; while he
always liked to make Lehrs cross my threshold in front of him to
distract the attention of Robber, of whom he stood in obvious
terror. Our usually good-natured dog became positively suspicious
of this visitor, and soon adopted towards him the same aggressive
attitude which he had shown to the sailor Koske on board the
Thetis. The two men lived at an hotel garni in Rue de Seine. They
complained greatly of their landlady, who appropriated so much of
their income that they were entirely in her power. Anders had for
years been trying to assert his independence by leaving her,
without being able to carry out his plan. We soon threw off
mutually every shred of disguise as to the present state of our
finances, so that, although the two house-holds were actually
separated, our common troubles gave us all the intimacy of one
united family.

The various ways by which I might obtain recognition in Paris
formed the chief topic of our discussions at that time. Our hopes
were at first centred on Meyerbeer's promised letters of
introduction. Duponchel, the director of the Opera, did actually
see me at his office, where, fixing a monocle in his right eye,
he read through Meyerbeer's letter without betraying the least
emotion, having no doubt opened similar communications from the
composer many times before. I went away, and never heard another
word from him. The elderly conductor, Habeneck, on the other
hand, took an interest in my work that was not merely polite, and
acceded to my request to have something of mine played at one of
the orchestral practises at the Conservatoire as soon as he
should have leisure. I had, unfortunately, no short instrumental
piece that seemed suitable except my queer Columbus Overture,
which I considered the most effective of all that had emanated
from my pen. It had been received with great applause on the
occasion of its performance in the theatre at Magdeburg, with the
assistance of the valiant trumpeters from the Prussian garrison.
I gave Habeneck the score and parts, and was able to report to
our committee at home that I had now one enterprise on foot.

I gave up the attempt to try and see Scribe on the mere ground of
our having had some correspondence, for my friends had made it
clear to me, in the light of their own experience, that it was
out of the question to expect this exceptionally busy author to
occupy himself seriously with a young and unknown musician.
Anders was able to introduce me to another acquaintance, however,
a certain M. Dumersan. This grey-haired gentleman had written
some hundred vaudeville pieces, and would have been glad to see
one of them performed as an opera on a larger scale before his
death. He had no idea of standing on his dignity as an author,
and was quite willing to undertake the translation of an existing
libretto into French verse. We therefore entrusted him with the
writing of my Liebesverbot, with a view to a performance at the
Theatre de la Renaissance, as it was then called. (It was the
third existing theatre for lyric drama, the performances being
given in the new Salle Ventadour, which had been rebuilt after
its destruction by fire.) On the understanding that it was to be
a literal translation, he at once turned the three numbers of my
opera, for which I hoped to secure a hearing, into neat French
verse. Besides this, he asked me to compose a chorus for a
vaudeville entitled La Descente de la Courtille, which was to be
played at the Varietes during the carnival.

This was a second opening. My friends now strongly advised me to
write something small in the way of songs, which I could offer to
popular singers for concert purposes. Both Lehrs and Anders
produced words for these. Anders brought a very innocent Dors,
mon enfant, written by a young poet of his acquaintance; this was
the first thing I composed to a French text. It was so successful
that, when I had tried it over softly several times on the piano,
my wife, who was in bed, called out to me that it was heavenly
for sending one to sleep. I also set L'Attente from Hugo's
Orientales, and Ronsard's song, Mignonne, to music. I have no
reason to be ashamed of these small pieces, which I published
subsequently as a musical supplement to Europa (Lewald's
publication) in 1841.

I next stumbled on the idea of writing a grand bass aria with a
chorus, for Lablache to introduce into his part of Orovist in
Bellini's Norma. Lehrs had to hunt up an Italian political
refugee to get the text out of him. This was done, and I produced
an effective composition a la Bellini (which still exists among
my manuscripts), and went off at once to offer it to Lablache.

The friendly Moor, who received me in the great singer's
anteroom, insisted upon admitting me straight into his master's
presence without announcing me. As I had anticipated some
difficulty in getting near such a celebrity, I had written my
request, as I thought this would be simpler than explaining

The black servant's pleasant manner made me feel very
uncomfortable; I entrusted my score and letter to him to give to
Lablache, without taking any notice of his kindly astonishment at
my refusal of his repeated invitation to go into his master's
room and have an interview, and I left the house hurriedly,
intending to call for my answer in a few days. When I came back
Lablache received me most kindly, and assured me that my aria was
excellent, though it was impossible to introduce it into
Bellini's opera after the latter had already been performed so
very often. My relapse into the domain of Bellini's style, of
which I had been guilty through the writing of this aria, was
therefore useless to me, and I soon became convinced of the
fruitlessness of my efforts in that direction. I saw that I
should need personal introductions to various singers in order to
ensure the production of one of my other compositions.

When Meyerbeer at last arrived in Paris, therefore, I was
delighted. He was not in the least astonished at the lack of
success of his letters of introduction; on the contrary, he made
use of this opportunity to impress upon me how difficult it was
to get on in Paris, and how necessary it was for me to look out
for less pretentious work. With this object he introduced me to
Maurice Schlesinger, and leaving me at the mercy of that
monstrous person, went back to Germany.

At first Schlesinger did not know what to do with me; the
acquaintances I made through him (of whom the chief was the
violinist Panofka) led to nothing, and I therefore returned to my
advisory board at home, through whose influence I had recently
received an order to compose the music to the Two Grenadiers, by
Heine, translated by a Parisian professor. I wrote this song for
baritone, and was very pleased with the result; on Ander's advice
I now tried to find singers for my new compositions. Mme. Pauline
Viardot, on whom I first called, went through my songs with me.
She was very amiable, and praised them, but did not see why SHE
should sing them. I went through the same experience with a Mme.
Widmann, a grand contralto, who sang my Dors, mon enfant with
great feeling; all the same she had no further use for my
composition. A certain M. Dupont, third tenor at the grand opera,
tried my setting of the Ronsard poem, but declared that the
language in which it was written was no longer palatable to the
Paris public. M. Geraldy, a favourite concert singer and teacher,
who allowed me to call and see him frequently, told me that the
Two Grenadiers was impossible, for the simple reason that the
accompaniment at the end of the song, which I had modelled upon
the Marseillaise, could only be sung in the streets of Paris to
the accompaniment of cannons and gunshots. Habeneck was the only
person who fulfilled his promise to conduct my Columbus Overture
at one of the rehearsals for the benefit of Anders and myself.
As, however, there was no question of producing this work even at
one of the celebrated Conservatoire concerts, I saw clearly that
the old gentleman was only moved by kindness and a desire to
encourage me. It could not lead to anything further, and I myself
was convinced that this extremely superficial work of my young
days could only give the orchestra a wrong impression of my
talents. However, these rehearsals, to my surprise, made such an
unexpected impression on me in other ways that they exercised a
decisive influence in the crisis of my artistic development. This
was due to the fact that I listened repeatedly to Beethoven's
Ninth Symphony, which, by dint of untiring practice, received
such a marvellous interpretation at the hands of this celebrated
orchestra, that the picture I had had of it in my mind in the
enthusiastic days of my youth now stood before me almost tangibly
in brilliant colours, undimmed, as though it had never been
effaced by the Leipzig orchestra who had slaughtered it under
Pohlenz's baton. Where formerly I had only seen mystic
constellations and weird shapes without meaning, I now found,
flowing from innumerable sources, a stream of the most touching
and heavenly melodies which delighted my heart.

The whole of that period of the deterioration of my musical
tastes which dated, practically speaking, from those selfsame
confusing ideas about Beethoven, and which had grown so much
worse through my acquaintance with that dreadful theatre--all
these wrong views now sank down as if into an abyss of shame and

This inner change had been gradually prepared by many painful
experiences during the last few years. I owed the recovery of my
old vigour and spirits to the deep impression the rendering of
the Ninth Symphony had made on me when performed in a way I had
never dreamed of. This important event in my life can only be
compared to the upheaval caused within me when, as a youth of
sixteen, I saw Schroder-Devrient act in Fidelio.

The direct result of this was my intense longing to compose
something that would give me a similar feeling of satisfaction,
and this desire grew in proportion to my anxiety about my
unfortunate position in Paris, which made me almost despair of

In this mood I sketched an overture to Faust which, according to
my original scheme, was only to form the first part of a whole
Faust Symphony, as I had already got the 'Gretchen' idea in my
head for the second movement. This is the same composition that I
rewrote in several parts fifteen years later; I had forgotten all
about it, and I owed its reconstruction to the advice of Liszt,
who gave me many valuable hints. This composition has been
performed many times under the title of eine Faust-ouverture, and
has met with great appreciation. At the time of which I am
speaking, I hoped that the Conservatoire orchestra would have
been willing to give the work a hearing, but I was told they
thought they had done enough for me, and hoped to be rid of me
for some time.

Having failed everywhere, I now turned to Meyerbeer for more
introductions, especially to singers. I was very much surprised
when, in consequence of my request, Meyerbeer introduced me to a
certain M. Gouin, a post-office official, and Meyerbeer's sole
agent in Paris, whom he instructed to do his utmost for me.
Meyerbeer specially wished me to know M. Antenor Joly, director
of the Theatre de la Renaissance, the musical theatre already
mentioned. M. Gouin, with almost suspicious levity, promised me
to produce my opera Liebesverbot, which now only required
translation. There was a question of having a few numbers of my
opera sung to the committee of the theatre at a special audience.
When I suggested that some of the singers of this very theatre
should undertake to sing three of the numbers which had been
already translated by Dumersan, I was refused on the plea that
all these artists were far too busy. But Gouin saw a way out of
the difficulty; on the authority of Maitre Meyerbeer, he won over
to our cause several singers who were under an obligation to
Meyerbeer: Mme. Dorus-Gras, a real primadonna of the Grand Opera,
Mme. Widmann and M. Dupont (the two last-named had previously
refused to help me) now promised to sing for me at this audience.

This much, then, did I achieve in six months. It was now nearly
Easter of the year 1840. Encouraged by Gouin's negotiations,
which seemed to spell hope, I made up my mind to move from the
obscure Quartier des Innocents to a part of Paris nearer to the
musical centre; and in this I was encouraged by Lehrs' foolhardy

What this change meant to me, my readers will learn when they
hear under what circumstances we had dragged on our existence
during our stay in Paris.

Although we were living in the cheapest possible way, dining at a
very small restaurant for a franc a head, it was impossible to
prevent the rest of our money from melting away. Our friend
Moller had given us to understand that we could ask him if we
were in need, as he would put aside for us the first money that
came in from any successful business transaction. There was no
alternative but to apply to him for money; in the meantime we
pawned all the trinkets we possessed that were of any value. As I
was too shy to make inquiries about a pawnshop, I looked up the
French equivalent in the dictionary in order to be able to
recognise such a place when I saw it. In my little pocket
dictionary I could not find any other word than 'Lombard.' On
looking at a map of Paris I found, situated in the middle of an
inextricable maze of streets, a very small lane called Rue des
Lombards. Thither I wended my way, but my expedition was
fruitless. Often, on reading by the light of the transparent
lanterns the inscription 'Mont de Piete,' I became very curious
to know its meaning, and on consulting my advisory board at home
about this 'Mount of Piety,' [Footnote: This is the correct
translation of the words Berg der Frommigkeit used in the
original.--Editor.] I was told, to my great delight, that it was
precisely there that I should find salvation. To this 'Mont de
Piete' we now carried all we possessed in the way of silver,
namely, our wedding presents. After that followed my wife's
trinkets and the rest of her former theatrical wardrobe, amongst
which was a beautiful silver-embroidered blue dress with a court
train, once the property of the Duchess of Dessau. Still we heard
nothing from our friend Moller, and we were obliged to wait on
from day to day for the sorely needed help from Konigsberg, and
at last, one dark day, we pledged our wedding rings. When all
hope of assistance seemed vain, I heard that the pawn-tickets
themselves were of some value, as they could be sold to buyers,
who thereby acquired the right to redeem the pawned articles. I
had to resort even to this, and thus the blue court-dress, for
instance, was lost for ever. Moller never wrote again. When later
on he called on me at the time of my conductorship in Dresden, he
admitted that he had been embittered against me owing to
humiliating and derogatory remarks we were said to have made
about him after we parted, and had resolved not to have anything
further to do with us. We were certain of our innocence in the
matter, and very grieved at having, through pure slander, lost
the chance of such assistance in our great need.

At the beginning of our pecuniary difficulties we sustained a
loss which we looked upon as providential, in spite of the grief
it caused us. This was our beautiful dog, which we had managed to
bring across to Paris with endless difficulty. As he was a very
valuable animal, and attracted much attention, he had probably
been stolen. In spite of the terrible state of the traffic in
Paris, he had always found his way home in the same clever manner
in which he had mastered the difficulties of the London streets.
Quite at the beginning of our stay in Paris he had often gone off
by himself to the gardens of the Palais Royal, where he used to
meet many of his friends, and had returned safe and sound after a
brilliant exhibition of swimming and retrieving before an
audience of gutter children. At the Quai du Pont-neuf he
generally begged us to let him bathe; there he used to draw a
large crowd of spectators round him, who were so loud in their
enthusiasm about the way in which he dived for and brought to
land various objects of clothing, tools, etc., that the police
begged us to put an end to the obstruction. One morning I let him
out for a little run as usual; he never returned, and in spite of
our most strenuous efforts to recover him, no trace of him was to
be found. This loss seemed to many of our friends a piece of
luck, for they could not understand how it was possible for us to
feed such a huge animal when we ourselves had not enough to eat.
About this time, the second month of our stay in Paris, my sister
Louisa came over from Leipzig to join her husband, Friedrich
Brockhaus, in Paris, where he had been waiting for her for some
time. They intended to go to Italy together, and Louisa made use
of this opportunity to buy all kinds of expensive things in
Paris. I did not expect them to feel any pity for us on account
of our foolish removal to Paris, and its attendant miseries, or
that they should consider themselves bound to help us in any way;
but although we did not try to conceal our position, we derived
no benefit from the visit of our rich relations. Minna was even
kind enough to help my sister with her luxurious shopping, and we
were very anxious not to make them think we wanted to rouse their
pity. In return my sister introduced me to an extraordinary
friend of hers, who was destined to take a great interest in me.
This was the young painter, Ernst Kietz, from Dresden; he was an
exceptionally kind-hearted and unaffected young man, whose talent
for portrait painting (in a sort of coloured pastel style) had
made him such a favourite in his own town, that he had been
induced by his financial successes to come to Paris for a time to
finish his art studies. He had now been working in Delaroche's
studio for about a year. He had a curious and almost childlike
disposition, and his lack of all serious education, combined with
a certain weakness of character, had made him choose a career in
which he was destined, in spite of all his talent, to fail
hopelessly. I had every opportunity of recognising this, as I saw
a great deal of him. At the time, however, the simple-hearted
devotion and kindness of this young man were very welcome both to
myself and my wife, who often felt lonely, and his friendship was
a real source of help in our darkest hours of adversity. He
became almost a member of the family, and joined our home circle
every night, providing a strange contrast to nervous old Anders
and the grave-faced Lehrs. His good-nature and his quaint remarks
soon made him indispensable to us; he amused us tremendously with
his French, into which he would launch with the greatest
confidence, although he could not put together two consecutive
sentences properly, in spite of having lived in Paris for twenty
years. With Delaroche he studied oil-painting, and had obviously
considerable talent in this direction, although it was the very
rock on which he stranded. The mixing of the colours on his
palette, and especially the cleaning of his brushes, took up so
much of his time that he rarely came to the actual painting. As
the days were very short in midwinter, he never had time to do
any work after he had finished washing his palette and brushes,
and, as far as I can remember, he never completed a single
portrait. Strangers to whom he had been introduced, and who had
given him orders to paint their portraits, were obliged to leave
Paris without seeing them even half done, and at last he even
complained because some of his sitters died before their
portraits were completed. His landlord, to whom he was always in
debt for rent, was the only creature who succeeded in getting a
portrait of his ugly person from the painter, and, as far as I
know, this is the only finished portrait in existence by Kietz.
On the other hand, he was very clever at making little sketches
of any subject suggested by our conversation during the evening,
and in these he displayed both originality and delicacy of
execution. During the winter of that year he completed a good
pencil portrait of me, which he touched up two years afterwards
when he knew me more intimately, finishing it off as it now
stands. It pleased him to sketch me in the attitude I often
assumed during our evening chats when I was in a cheerful mood.
No evening ever passed during which I did not succeed in shaking
off the depression caused by my vain endeavours, and by the many
worries I had gone through during the day, and in regaining my
natural cheerfulness, and Kietz was anxious to represent me to
the world as a man who, in spite of the hard times he had to
face, had confidence in his success, and rose smiling above the
troubles of life. Before the end of the year 1839, my youngest
sister Cecilia also arrived in Paris with her husband, Edward
Avenarius. It was only natural that she should feel embarrassed
at the idea of meeting us in Paris in our extremely straitened
circumstances, especially as her husband was not very well off.
Consequently, instead of calling on them frequently, we preferred
waiting until they came to see us, which, by the way, took them a
long time. On the other hand, the renewal of our acquaintance
with Heinrich Laube, who came over to Paris at the beginning of
1840 with his young wife, Iduna (nee Budaus), was very cheering.
She was the widow of a wealthy Leipzig doctor, and Laube had
married her under very extraordinary circumstances, since we last
saw him in Berlin; they intended to enjoy themselves for a few
months in Paris. During the long period of his detention, while
awaiting his trial, this young lady had been so touched by his
misfortunes that without knowing much of him, she had shown great
sympathy and interest in his case. Laube's sentence was
pronounced soon after I left Berlin; it was unexpectedly light,
consisting of only one year's imprisonment in the town gaol. He
was allowed to undergo this term in the prison at Muskau in
Silesia, where he had the advantage of being near his friend,
Prince Puckler, who in his official capacity, and on account of
his influence with the governor of the prison, was permitted to
afford the prisoner even the consolation of personal intercourse.

The young widow resolved to marry him at the beginning of his
term of imprisonment, so that she might be near him at Muskau
with her loving assistance. To see my old friend under such
favourable conditions was in itself a pleasure to me; I also
experienced the liveliest satisfaction at finding there was no
change in his former sympathetic attitude. We met frequently; our
wives also became friends, and Laube was the first to approve in
his kindly humorous way of our folly in moving to Paris.

In his house I made the acquaintance of Heinrich Heine, and both
of them joked good-humouredly over my extraordinary position,
making even me laugh. Laube felt himself compelled to talk
seriously to me about my expectations of succeeding in Paris, as
he saw that I treated my situation, based on such trivial hopes,
with a humour that charmed him even against his better judgment.
He tried to think how he could help me without prejudicing my
future. With this object he wanted me to make a more or less
plausible sketch of my future plans, so that on his approaching
visit to our native land he might procure some help for me. I
happened just at that time to have come to an exceedingly
promising understanding with the management of the Theatre de la
Renaissance. I thus seemed to have obtained a footing, and I
thought it safe to assert, that if I were guaranteed the means of
livelihood for six months, I could not fail within that period to
accomplish something. Laube promised to make this provision, and
kept his word. He induced one of his wealthy friends in Leipzig,
and, following this example, my well-to-do relations, to provide
me for six months with the necessary resources, to be paid in
monthly instalments through Avenarius.

We therefore decided, as I have said, to leave our furnished
apartments and take a flat for ourselves in the Rue du Helder. My
prudent, careful wife had suffered greatly on account of the
careless and uncertain manner in which I had hitherto
controlled our meagre resources, and in now undertaking the
responsibility, she explained that she understood how to keep
house more cheaply than we could do by living in furnished rooms
and restaurants. Success justified the step; the serious part of
the question lay in the fact that we had to start housekeeping
without any furniture of our own, and everything necessary for
domestic purposes had to be procured, though we had not the
wherewithal to get it. In this matter Lehrs, who was well versed
in the peculiarities of Parisian life, was able to advise us. In
his opinion the only compensation for the experiences we had
undergone hitherto would be a success equivalent to my daring. As
I did not possess the resources to allow of long years of patient
waiting for success in Paris, I must either count on
extraordinary luck or renounce all my hopes forthwith. The
longed-for success must come within a year, or I should be
ruined. Therefore I must dare all, as befitted my name, for in my
case he was not inclined to derive 'Wagner' [Footnote: 'Wagner'
in German means one who dares, also a Wagoner; and 'Fuhrwerk'
means a carriage.--Editor.] from Fuhrwerk. I was to pay my rent,
twelve hundred francs, in quarterly instalments; for the
furniture and fittings, he recommended me, through his landlady,
to a carpenter who provided everything that was necessary for
what seemed to be a reasonable sum, also to be paid by
instalments, all of which appeared very simple. Lehrs maintained
that I should do no good in Paris unless I showed the world that
I had confidence in myself. My trial audience was impending; I
felt sure of the Theatre de la Renaissance, and Dumersan was
keenly anxious to make a complete translation of my Liebesverbot
into French. So we decided to run the risk. On 15th April, to the
astonishment of the concierge of the house in the Rue du Helder,
we moved with an exceedingly small amount of luggage into our
comfortable new apartments.

The very first visit I received in the rooms I had taken with
such high hopes was from Anders, who came with the tidings that
the Theatre de la Renaissance had just gone bankrupt, and was
closed. This news, which came on me like a thunder-clap, seemed
to portend more than an ordinary stroke of bad luck; it revealed
to me like a flash of lightning the absolute emptiness of my
prospects. My friends openly expressed the opinion that
Meyerbeer, in sending me from the Grand Opera to this theatre,
probably knew the whole of the circumstances. I did not pursue
the line of thought to which this supposition might lead, as I
felt cause enough for bitterness when I wondered what I should do
with the rooms in which I was so nicely installed.

As my singers had now practised the portions of Liebesverbot
intended for the trial audience, I was anxious at least to have
them performed before some persons of influence. M. Edouard
Monnaie, who had been appointed temporary director of the Grand
Opera after Duponchel's retirement, was the less disposed to
refuse as the singers who were to take part belonged to the
institution over which he presided; moreover, there was no
obligation attached to his presence at the audience. I also took
the trouble to call on Scribe to invite him to attend, and he
accepted with the kindest alacrity. At last my three pieces were
performed before these two gentlemen in the green room of the
Grand Opera, and I played the piano accompaniment. They
pronounced the music charming, and Scribe expressed his
willingness to arrange the libretto for me as soon as the
managers of the opera had decided on accepting the piece; all
that M. Monnaie had to reply to this offer was that it was
impossible for them to do so at present. I did not fail to
realise that these were only polite expressions; but at all
events I thought it very nice of them, and particularly
condescending of Scribe to have got so far as to think me
deserving of a little politeness.

But in my heart of hearts I felt really ashamed of having gone
back again seriously to that superficial early work from which I
had taken these three pieces. Of course I had only done this
because I thought I should win success more rapidly in Paris by
adapting myself to its frivolous taste. My aversion from this
kind of taste, which had been long growing, coincided with my
abandonment of all hopes of success in Paris. I was placed in an
exceedingly melancholy situation by the fact that my
circumstances had so shaped themselves that I dared not express
this important change in my feelings to any one, especially to my
poor wife. But if I continued to make the best of a bad bargain,
I had no longer any illusions as to the possibility of success in
Paris. Face to face with unheard-of misery, I shuddered at the
smiling aspect which Paris presented in the bright sunshine of
May. It was the beginning of the slack season for any sort of
artistic enterprise in Paris, and from every door at which I
knocked with feigned hope I was turned away with the wretchedly
monotonous phrase, Monsieur est a la campagne.

On our long walks, when we felt ourselves absolute strangers in
the midst of the gay throng, I used to romance to my wife about
the South American Free States, far away from all this sinister
life, where opera and music were unknown, and the foundations of
a sensible livelihood could easily be secured by industry. I told
Minna, who was quite in the dark as to my meaning, of a book I
had just read, Zschokke's Die Grundung von Maryland, in which I
found a very seductive account of the sensation of relief
experienced by the European settlers after their former
sufferings and persecutions. She, being of a more practical turn
of mind, used to point out to me the necessity of procuring means
for our continued existence in Paris, for which she had thought
out all sorts of economies.

I, for my part, was sketching out the plan of the poem of my
Fliegender Hollander, which I kept steadily before me as a
possible means of making a debut in Paris. I put together the
material for a single act, influenced by the consideration that I
could in this way confine it to the simple dramatic developments
between the principal characters, without troubling about the
tiresome operatic accessories. From a practical point of view, I
thought I could rely on a better prospect for the acceptance of
my proposed work if it were cast in the form of a one-act opera,
such as was frequently given as a curtain raiser before a ballet
at the Grand Opera. I wrote about it to Meyerbeer in Berlin,
asking for his help. I also resumed the composition of Rienzi, to
the completion of which I was now giving my constant attention.

In the meantime our position became more and more gloomy; I was
soon compelled to draw in advance on the subsidies obtained by
Laube, but in so doing I gradually alienated the sympathy of my
brother-in-law Avenarius, to whom our stay in Paris was

One morning, when we had been anxiously consulting as to the
possibility of raising our first quarter's rent, a carrier
appeared with a parcel addressed to me from London; I thought it
was an intervention of Providence, and broke open the seal. At
the same moment a receipt-book was thrust into my face for
signature, in which I at once saw that I had to pay seven francs
for carriage. I recognised, moreover, that the parcel contained
my overture Rule Britannia, returned to me from the London
Philharmonic Society. In my fury I told the bearer that I would
not take in the parcel, whereupon he remonstrated in the
liveliest fashion, as I had already opened it. It was no use; I
did not possess seven francs, and I told him he should have
presented the bill for the carriage before I had opened the
parcel. So I made him return the only copy of my overture to
Messrs. Laffitte and Gaillard's firm, to do what they liked with
it, and I never cared to inquire what became of that manuscript.

Suddenly Kietz devised a way out of these troubles. He had been
commissioned by an old lady of Leipzig, called Fraulein Leplay, a
rich and very miserly old maid, to find a cheap lodging in Paris
for her and for his stepmother, with whom she intended to travel.
As our apartment, though not spacious, was larger than we
actually needed, and had very quickly become a troublesome burden
to us, we did not hesitate for a moment to let the larger portion
of it to her for the time of her stay in Paris, which was to last
about two months. In addition, my wife provided the guests with
breakfast, as though they were in furnished apartments, and took
a great pride in looking at the few pence she earned in this way.
Although we found this amazing example of old-maidishness trying
enough, the arrangement we had made helped us in some degree to
tide over the anxious time, and I was able, in spite of this
disorganisation of our household arrangements, to continue
working in comparative peace at my Rienzi.

This became more difficult after Fraulein Leplay's departure,
when we let one of our rooms to a German commercial traveller,
who in his leisure hours zealously played the flute. His name was
Brix; he was a modest, decent fellow, and had been recommended to
us by Pecht the painter, whose acquaintance we had recently made.
He had been introduced to us by Kietz, who studied with him in
Delaroche's studio. He was the very antithesis of Kietz in every
way, and obviously endowed with less talent, yet he grappled with
the task of acquiring the art of oil-painting in the shortest
possible time under difficult circumstances with an industry and
earnestness quite out of the common. He was, moreover, well
educated, and eagerly assimilated information, and was very
straightforward, earnest, and trustworthy. Without attaining to
the same degree of intimacy with us as our three older friends,
he was, nevertheless, one of the few who continued to stand by us
in our troubles, and habitually spent nearly every evening in our

One day I received a fresh surprising proof of Laube's continued
solicitude on our behalf. The secretary of a certain Count
Kuscelew called on us, and after some inquiry into our affairs,
the state of which he had heard from Laube at Karlsbad, informed
us in a brief and friendly way that his patron wished to be of
use to us, and with that object in view desired to make my
acquaintance. In fact, he proposed to engage a small light opera
company in Paris, which was to follow him to his Russian estates.
He was therefore looking for a musical director of sufficient
experience to assist in recruiting the members in Paris. I gladly
went to the hotel where the count was staying, and there found an
elderly gentleman of frank and agreeable bearing, who willingly
listened to my little French compositions. Being a shrewd reader
of human nature, he saw at a glance that I was not the man for
him, and though he showed me the most polite attention, he went
no further into the opera scheme. But that very day he sent me,
accompanied by a friendly note, ten golden napoleons, in payment
for my services. What these services were I did not know. I
thereupon wrote to him, and asked for more precise details of his
wishes, and begged him to commission a composition, the fee for
which I presumed he had sent in advance. As I received no reply,
I made more than one effort to approach him again, but in vain.
From other sources I afterwards learned that the only kind of
opera Count Kuscelew recognised was Adam's. As for the operatic
company to be engaged to suit his taste, what he really wanted
was more a small harem than a company of artists.

So far I had not been able to arrange anything with the music
publisher Schlesinger. It was impossible to persuade him to
publish my little French songs. In order to do something,
however, towards making myself known in this direction, I decided
to have my Two Grenadiers engraved by him at my own expense.
Kietz was to lithograph a magnificent title-page for it.
Schlesinger ended by charging me fifty francs for the cost of
production. The story of this publication is curious from
beginning to end; the work bore Schlesinger's name, and as I had
defrayed all expenses, the proceeds were, of course, to be placed
to my account. I had afterwards to take the publisher's word for
it that not a single copy had been sold. Subsequently, when I had
made a quick reputation for myself in Dresden through my Rienzi,
Schott the publisher in Mainz, who dealt almost exclusively in
works translated from the French, thought it advisable to bring
out a German edition of the Two Grenadiers. Below the text of the
French translation he had the German original by Heine printed;
but as the French poem was a very free paraphrase, in quite a
different metre to the original, Heine's words fitted my
composition so badly that I was furious at the insult to my work,
and thought it necessary to protest against Schott's publication
as an entirely unauthorised reprint. Schott then threatened me
with an action for libel, as he said that, according to his
agreement, his edition was not a reprint (Nachdruck), but a
reimpression (Abdruck). In order to be spared further annoyance,
I was induced to send him an apology in deference to the
distinction he had drawn, which I did not understand.

In 1848, when I made inquiries of Schlesinger's successor in
Paris (M. Brandus) as to the fate of my little work, I learned
from him that a new edition had been published, but he declined
to entertain any question of rights on my part. Since I did not
care to buy a copy with my own money, I have to this day had to
do without my own property. To what extent, in later years,
others profited by similar transactions relating to the
publication of my works, will appear in due course.

For the moment the point was to compensate Schlesinger for the
fifty francs agreed upon, and he proposed that I should do this
by writing articles for his Gazette Musicale.

As I was not expert enough in the French language for literary
purposes, my article had to be translated and half the fee had to
go to the translator. However, I consoled myself by thinking I
should still receive sixty francs per sheet for the work. I was
soon to learn, when I presented myself to the angry publisher for
payment, what was meant by a sheet. It was measured by an
abominable iron instrument, on which the lines of the columns
were marked off with figures; this was applied to the article,
and after careful subtraction of the spaces left for the title
and signature, the lines were added up. After this process had
been gone through, it appeared that what I had taken for a sheet
was only half a sheet.

So far so good. I began to write articles for Schlesinger's
wonderful paper. The first was a long essay, De la musique
allemande, in which I expressed with the enthusiastic
exaggeration characteristic of me at that time my appreciation of
the sincerity and earnestness of German music. This article led
my friend Anders to remark that the state of affairs in Germany
must, indeed, be splendid if the conditions were really as I
described. I enjoyed what was to me the surprising satisfaction
of seeing this article subsequently reproduced in Italian, in a
Milan musical journal, where, to my amusement, I saw myself
described as Dottissimo Musico Tedesco, a mistake which nowadays
would be impossible. My essay attracted favourable comment, and
Schlesinger asked me to write an article in praise of the
arrangement made by the Russian General Lwoff of Pergolesi's
Stabat Mater, which I did as superficially as possible. On my own
impulse I then wrote an essay in a still more amiable vein called
Du metier du virtuose et de l'independance de la composition.

In the meantime I was surprised in the middle of the summer by
the arrival of Meyerbeer, who happened to come to Paris for a
fortnight. He was very sympathetic and obliging. When I told him
my idea of writing a one-act opera as a curtain raiser, and asked
him to give me an introduction to M. Leon Pillet, the recently
appointed manager of the Grand Opera, he at once took me to see
him, and presented me to him. But alas, I had the unpleasant
surprise of learning from the serious conversation which took
place between those two gentlemen as to my future, that Meyerbeer
thought I had better decide to compose an act for the ballet in
collaboration with another musician. Of course I could not
entertain such an idea for a moment. I succeeded, however, in
handing over to M. Pillet my brief sketch of the subject of the
Flying Dutchman..

Things had reached this point when Meyerbeer again left Paris,
this time for a longer period of absence.

As I did not hear from M. Pillet for quite a long time, I now
began to work diligently at my composition of Rienzi, though, to
my great distress, I had often to interrupt this task in order to
undertake certain pot-boiling hack-work for Schlesinger.

As my contributions to the Gazette Musicale proved so
unremunerative, Schlesinger one day ordered me to work out a
method for the Cornet a pistons. When I told him about my
embarrassment, in not knowing how to deal with the subject, he
replied by sending me five different published 'Methods' for the
Cornet a pistons, at that time the favourite amateur instrument
among the younger male population of Paris. I had merely to
devise a new sixth method out of these five, as all Schlesinger
wanted was to publish an edition of his own. I was racking my
brains how to start, when Schlesinger, who had just obtained a
new complete method, released me from the onerous task. I was,
however, told to write fourteen 'Suites' for the Cornet a
pistons--that is to say, airs out of operas arranged for this
instrument. To furnish me with material for this work,
Schlesinger sent me no less than sixty complete operas arranged
for the piano. I looked them through for suitable airs for my
'Suites,' marked the pages in the volumes with paper strips, and
arranged them into a curious-looking structure round my work-
table, so that I might have the greatest possible variety of the
melodious material within my reach. When I was in the midst of
this work, however, to my great relief and to my poor wife's
consternation, Schlesinger told me that M. Schlitz, the first
cornet player in Paris, who had looked my 'Etudes' through,
preparatory to their being engraved, had declared that I knew
absolutely nothing about the instrument, and had generally
adopted keys that were too high, which Parisians would never be
able to use. The part of the work I had already done was,
however, accepted, Schlitz having agreed to correct it, but on
condition that I should share my fee with him. The remainder of
the work was then taken off my hands, and the sixty pianoforte
arrangements went back to the curious shop in the Rue Richelieu.

So my exchequer was again in a sorry plight. The distressing
poverty of my home grew more apparent every day, and yet I was
now free to give a last touch to Rienzi, and by the 19th of
November I had completed this most voluminous of all my operas. I
had decided, some time previously, to offer the first production
of this work to the Court Theatre at Dresden, so that, in the
event of its being a success, I might thus resume my connection
with Germany. I had decided upon Dresden as I knew that there I
should have in Tichatschek the most suitable tenor for the
leading part. I also reckoned on my acquaintance with Schroder-
Devrient, who had always been nice to me and who, though her
efforts were ineffectual, had been at great pains, out of regard
for my family, to get my Feen introduced at the Court Theatre,
Dresden. In the secretary of the theatre, Hofrat Winkler (known
as Theodor Hell), I also had an old friend of my family, besides
which I had been introduced to the conductor, Reissiger, with
whom I and my friend Apel had spent a pleasant evening on the
occasion of our excursion to Bohemia in earlier days. To all
these people I now addressed most respectful and eloquent
appeals, wrote out an official note to the director, Herr von
Luttichau, as well as a formal petition to the King of Saxony,
and had everything ready to send off.

Meantime, I had not omitted to indicate the exact tempi in my
opera by means of a metronome. As I did not possess such a thing,
I had to borrow one, and one morning I went out to restore the
instrument to its owner, carrying it under my thin overcoat. The
day when this occurred was one of the strangest in my life, as it
showed in a really horrible way the whole misery of my position
at that time. In addition to the fact that I did not know where
to look for the few francs wherewith Minna was to provide for our
scanty household requirements, some of the bills which, in
accordance with the custom in Paris in those days, I had signed
for the purpose of fitting up our apartments, had fallen due.
Hoping to get help from one source or another, I first tried to
get those bills prolonged by the holders. As such documents pass
through many hands, I had to call on all the holders across the
length and breadth of the city. That day I was to propitiate a
cheese-monger who occupied a fifth-floor apartment in the Cite. I
also intended to ask for help from Heinrich, the brother of my
brother-in-law, Brockhaus, as he was then in Paris; and I was
going to call at Schlesinger's to raise the money to pay for the
despatch of my score that day by the usual mail service.

As I had also to deliver the metronome, I left Minna early in the
morning after a sad good-bye. She knew from experience that as I
was on a money-raising expedition, she would not see me back till
late at night. The streets were enveloped in a dense fog, and the
first thing I recognised on leaving the house was my dog Robber,
who had been stolen from us a year before. At first I thought it
was a ghost, but I called out to him sharply in a shrill voice.
The animal seemed to recognise me, and approached me cautiously,
but my sudden movement towards him with outstretched arms seemed
only to revive memories of the few chastisements I had foolishly
inflicted on him during the latter part of our association, and
this memory prevailed over all others. He drew timidly away from
me and, as I followed him with some eagerness, he ran, only to
accelerate his speed when he found he was being pursued. I became
more and more convinced that he had recognised me, because he
always looked back anxiously when he reached a corner; but seeing
that I was hunting him like a maniac, he started off again each
time with renewed energy. Thus I followed him through a labyrinth
of streets, hardly distinguishable in the thick mist, until I
eventually lost sight of him altogether, never to see him again.
It was near the church of St. Roch, and I, wet with perspiration
and quite breathless, was still bearing the metronome. For a
while I stood motionless, glaring into the mist, and wondered
what the ghostly reappearance of the companion of my travelling
adventures on this day might portend! The fact that he had fled
from his old master with the terror of a wild beast filled my
heart with a strange bitterness and seemed to me a horrible omen.
Sadly shaken, I set out again, with trembling limbs, upon my
weary errand.

Heinrich Brockhaus told me he could not help me, and I left him.
I was sorely ashamed, but made a strong effort to conceal the
painfulness of my situation. My other undertakings turned out
equally hopeless, and after having been kept waiting for hours at
Schlesinger's, listening to my employer's very trivial
conversations with his callers--conversations which he seemed
purposely to protract--I reappeared under the windows of my home
long after dark, utterly unsuccessful. I saw Minna looking
anxiously from one of the windows. Half expecting my misfortune
she had, in the meantime, succeeded in borrowing a small sum of
our lodger and boarder, Brix, the flute-player, whom we tolerated
patiently, though at some inconvenience to ourselves, as he was a
good-natured fellow. So she was able to offer me at least a
comfortable meal. Further help was to come to me subsequently,
though at the cost of great sacrifices on my part, owing to the
success of one of Donizetti's operas, La Favorita, a very poor
work of the Italian maestro's, but welcomed with great enthusiasm
by the Parisian public, already so much degenerated. This opera,
the success of which was due mainly to two lively little songs,
had been acquired by Schlesinger, who had lost heavily over
Halevy's last operas.

Taking advantage of my helpless situation, of which he was well
aware, he rushed into our rooms one morning, beaming all over
with amusing good-humour, called for pen and ink, and began to
work out a calculation of the enormous fees which he had arranged
for me! He put down: 'La Favorita, complete arrangement for
pianoforte, arrangement without words, for solo; ditto, for duet;
complete arrangement for quartette; the same for two violins;
ditto for a Cornet a piston. Total fee, frcs. 1100. Immediate
advance in cash, frcs. 500.' I could see at a glance what an
enormous amount of trouble this work would involve, but I did not
hesitate a moment to undertake it.

Curiously enough, when I brought home these five hundred francs
in hard shining five-franc pieces, and piled them up on the table
for our edification, my sister Cecilia Avenarius happened to drop
in to see us. The sight of this abundance of wealth seemed to
produce a good effect on her, as she had hitherto been rather
chary of coming to see us; and after that we used to see rather
more of her, and were often invited to dine with them on Sundays.
But I no longer cared for any amusements. I was so deeply
impressed by my past experiences that I made up my mind to work
through this humiliating, albeit profitable task, with untiring
energy, as though it were a penance imposed on me for the
expiation of my bygone sins. To save fuel, we limited ourselves
to the use of the bedroom, making it serve as a drawing-room,
dining-room, and study, as well as dormitory. It was only a step
from my bed to my work-table; to be seated at the dining-table,
all I had to do was to turn my chair round, and I left my seat
altogether only late at night when I wanted to go to bed again.
Every fourth day I allowed myself a short constitutional. This
penitential process lasted almost all through the winter, and
sowed the seeds of those gastric disorders which were to be more
or less of a trouble to me for the rest of my life.

In return for the minute and almost interminable work of
correcting the score of Donizetti's opera, I managed to get three
hundred francs from Schlesinger, as he could not get any one else
to do it. Besides this, I had to find the time to copy out the
orchestra parts of my overture to Faust, which I was still hoping
to hear at the Conservatoire; and by the way of counteracting the
depression produced by this humiliating occupation, I wrote a
short story, Eine Pilgerfahrt zu Beethoven (A Pilgrimage to
Beethoven), which appeared in the Gazette Musicale, under the
title Une Visite a Beethoven. Schlesinger told me candidly that
this little work had created quite a sensation, and had been
received with very marked approval; and, indeed, it was actually
reproduced, either complete or in parts, in a good many fireside

He persuaded me to write some more of the same kind; and in a
sequel entitled Das Ende eines Musikers in Paris (Un Musicien
etranger a Paris) I avenged myself for all the misfortunes I had
had to endure. Schlesinger was not quite so pleased with this as
with my first effort, but it received touching signs of approval
from his poor assistant; while Heinrich Heine praised it by
saying that 'Hoffmann would have been incapable of writing such a
thing.' Even Berlioz was touched by it, and spoke of the story
very favourably in one of his articles in the Journal des Debats.
He also gave me signs of his sympathy, though only during a
conversation, after the appearance of another of my musical
articles entitled Ueber die Ouverture (Concerning Overtures),
mainly because I had illustrated my principle by pointing to
Gluck's overture to Iphigenia in Aulis as a model for
compositions of this class.

Encouraged by these signs of sympathy, I felt anxious to become
more intimately acquainted with Berlioz. I had been introduced to
him some time previously at Schlesinger's office, where we used
to meet occasionally. I had presented him with a copy of my Two
Grenadiers, but could, however, never learn any more from him
concerning what he really thought of it than the fact that as he
could only strum a little on the guitar, he was unable to play
the music of my composition to himself on the piano. During the
previous winter I had often heard his grand instrumental pieces
played under his own direction, and had been most favourably
impressed by them. During that winter (1839-40) he conducted
three performances of his new symphony, Romeo and Juliet, at one
of which I was present.

All this, to be sure, was quite a new world to me, and I was
desirous of gaining some unprejudiced knowledge of it. At first
the grandeur and masterly execution of the orchestral part almost
overwhelmed me. It was beyond anything I could have conceived.
The fantastic daring, the sharp precision with which the boldest
combinations--almost tangible in their clearness--impressed me,
drove back my own ideas of the poetry of music with brutal
violence into the very depths of my soul. I was simply all ears
for things of which till then I had never dreamt, and which I
felt I must try to realise. True, I found a great deal that was
empty and shallow in his Romeo and Juliet, a work that lost much
by its length and form of combination; and this was the more
painful to me seeing that, on the other hand, I felt overpowered
by many really bewitching passages which quite overcame any
objections on my part.

During the same winter Berlioz produced his Sinfonie Fantastique
and his Harald ('Harold en Italie'). I was also much impressed by
these works; the musical genre-pictures woven into the first-
named symphony were particularly pleasing, while Harald delighted
me in almost every respect..

It was, however, the latest work of this wonderful master, his
Trauer-Symphonie fur die Opfer der Juli-Revolution (Grande
Symphonie Funebre et Triomphale), most skilfully composed for
massed military bands during the summer of 1840 for the
anniversary of the obsequies of the July heroes, and conducted by
him under the column of the Place de la Bastille, which had at
last thoroughly convinced me of the greatness and enterprise of
this incomparable artist. But while admiring this genius,
absolutely unique in his methods, I could never quite shake off a
certain peculiar feeling of anxiety. His works left me with a
sensation as of something strange, something with which I felt I
should never be able to be familiar, and I was often puzzled at
the strange fact that, though ravished by his compositions, I was
at the same time repelled and even wearied by them. It was only
much later that I succeeded in clearly grasping and solving this
problem, which for years exercised such a painful spell over me.

It is a fact that at that time I felt almost like a little
school-boy by the side of Berlioz. Consequently I was really
embarrassed when Schlesinger, determined to make good use of the
success of my short story, told me he was anxious to produce some
of my orchestral compositions at a concert arranged by the editor
of the Gazette Musicale. I realised that none of my available
works would in any way be suitable for such an occasion. I was
not quite confident as to my Faust Overture because of its
zephyr-like ending, which I presumed could only be appreciated by
an audience already familiar with my methods. When, moreover, I
learned that I should have only a second-rate orchestra--the
Valentino from the Casino, Rue St. Honore--and, moreover, that
there could be only one rehearsal, my only alternative lay
between declining altogether, or making another trial with my
Columbus Overture, the work composed in my early days at
Magdeburg. I adopted the latter course.

When I went to fetch the score of this composition from
Ilabeneck, who had it stored among the archives of the
Conservatoire, he warned me somewhat dryly, though not without
kindness, of the danger of presenting this work to the Parisian
public, as, to use his own words, it was too 'vague.' One great
objection was the difficulty of finding capable musicians for the
six cornets required, as the music for this instrument, so
skilfully played in Germany, could hardly, if ever, be
satisfactorily executed in Paris. Herr Schlitz, the corrector of
my 'Suites' for Cornet a piston, offered his assistance. I was
compelled to reduce my six cornets to four, and he told me that
only two of these could be relied on.

As a matter of fact, the attempts made at the rehearsal to
produce those very passages on which the effect of my work
chiefly depended were very discouraging. Not once were the soft
high notes played but they were flat or altogether wrong. In
addition to this, as I was not going to be allowed to conduct the
work myself, I had to rely upon a conductor who, as I was well
aware, had fully convinced himself that my composition was the
most utter rubbish--an opinion that seemed to be shared by the
whole orchestra. Berlioz, who was present at the rehearsal,
remained silent throughout. He gave me no encouragement, though
he did not dissuade me. He merely said afterwards, with a weary
smile, 'that it was very difficult to get on in Paris.'

On the night of the performance (4th February 1841) the audience,
which was largely composed of subscribers to the Gazette
Musicale, and to whom, therefore, my literary successes were not
unknown, seemed rather favourably disposed towards me. I was told
later on that my overture, however wearisome it had been, would
certainly have been applauded if those unfortunate cornet
players, by continually failing to produce the effective
passages, had not excited the public almost to the point of
hostility; for Parisians, for the most part, care only for the
skilful parts of performances, as, for instance, for the
faultless production of difficult tones. I was clearly conscious
of my complete failure. After this misfortune Paris no longer
existed for me, and all I had to do was to go back to my
miserable bedroom and resume my work of arranging Donizetti's

So great was my renunciation of the world that, like a penitent,
I no longer shaved, and to my wife's annoyance, for the first and
only time in my life allowed my beard to grow quite long. I tried
to bear everything patiently, and the only thing that threatened
really to drive me to despair was a pianist in the room adjoining
ours who during the livelong day practised Liszt's fantasy on
Lucia di Lammermoor. I had to put a stop to this torture, so, to
give him an idea of what he made us endure, one day I moved our
own piano, which was terribly out of tune, close up to the party
wall. Then Brix with his piccolo-flute played the piano-and-
violin (or flute) arrangement of the Favorita Overture I had just
completed, while I accompanied him on the piano. The effect on
our neighbour, a young piano-teacher, must have been appalling.
The concierge told me the next day that the poor fellow was
leaving, and, after all, I felt rather sorry.

The wife of our concierge had entered into a sort of arrangement
with us. At first we had occasionally availed ourselves of her
services, especially in the kitchen, also for brushing clothes,
cleaning boots, and so on; but even the slight outlay that this
involved was eventually too heavy for us, and after having
dispensed with her services, Minna had to suffer the humiliation
of doing the whole work of the household, even the most menial
part of it, herself. As we did not like to mention this to Brix,
Minna was obliged, not only to do all the cooking and washing up,
but even to clean our lodger's boots as well. What we felt most,
however, was the thought of what the concierge and his wife would
think of us; but we were mistaken, for they only respected us the
more, though of course we could not avoid a little familiarity at
times, Now and then, therefore, the man would have a chat with me
on politics. When the Quadruple Alliance against France had been
concluded, and the situation under Thiers' ministry was regarded
as very critical, my concierge tried to reassure me one day by
saying: 'Monsieur, il y a quatre hommes en Europe qui
s'appellent: le roi Louis Philippe, l'empereur d'Autriche,
l'empereur de Russie, le roi de Prusse; eh bien, ces quatre sont
des c...; et nous n'aurons pas la guerre.'

Of an evening I very seldom lacked entertainment; but the few
faithful friends who came to see me had to put up with my going
on scribbling music till late in the night. Once they prepared a
touching surprise for me in the form of a little party which they
arranged for New Year's Eve (1840). Lehrs arrived at dusk, rang
the bell, and brought a leg of veal; Kietz brought some rum,
sugar, and a lemon; Pecht supplied a goose; and Anders two
bottles of the champagne with which he had been presented by a
musical instrument-maker in return for a flattering article he
had written about his pianos. Bottles from that stock were
produced only on very great occasions. I soon threw the
confounded Favorita aside, therefore, and entered
enthusiastically into the fun.

We all had to assist in the preparations, to light the fire in
the salon, give a hand to my wife in the kitchen, and get what
was wanted from the grocer. The supper developed into a
dithyrambic orgy. When the champagne was drunk, and the punch
began to produce its effects, I delivered a fiery speech which so
provoked the hilarity of the company that it seemed as though it
would never end. I became so excited that I first mounted a
chair, and then, by way of heightening the effect, at last stood
on the table, thence to preach the maddest gospel of the contempt
of life together with a eulogy on the South American Free States.
My charmed listeners eventually broke into such fits of sobs and
laughter, and were so overcome, that we had to give them all
shelter for the night--their condition making it impossible for
them to reach their own homes in safety. On New Year's Day (1841)
I was again busy with my Favorita.

I remember another similar though far less boisterous feast, on
the occasion of a visit paid us by the famous violinist Vieux-
temps, an old schoolfellow of Kietz's. We had the great pleasure
of hearing the young virtuoso, who was then greatly feted in
Paris, play to us charmingly for a whole evening--a performance
which lent my little salon an unusual touch of 'fashion.' Kietz
rewarded him for his kindness by carrying him on his shoulders to
his hotel close by.

We were hard hit in the early part of this year by a mistake I
made owing to my ignorance of Paris customs. It seemed to us
quite a matter of course that we should wait until the proper
quarter-day to give notice to our landlady. So I called on the
proprietress of the house, a rich young widow living in one of
her own houses in the Marias quarter. She received me, but seemed
much embarrassed, and said she would speak to her agent about the
matter, and eventually referred me to him. The next day I was
informed by letter that my notice would have been valid had it
been given two days earlier. By this omission I had rendered
myself liable, according to the agreement, for another year's
rent. Horrified by this news, I went to see the agent himself,
and after having been kept waiting for a long time--as a matter
of fact they would not let me in at all--I found an elderly
gentleman, apparently crippled by some very painful malady, lying
motionless before me. I frankly told him my position, and begged
him most earnestly to release me from my agreement, but I was
merely told that the fault was mine, and not his, that I had
given notice a day too late, and consequently that I must find
the rent for the next year. My concierge, to whom, with some
emotion, I related the story of this occurrence, tried to soothe
me by saying: 'J'aurais pu vous dire cela, car voyez, monsieur,
cet homme ne vaut pas l'eau qu'il boit.'

This entirely unforeseen misfortune destroyed our last hopes of
getting out of our disastrous position. We consoled ourselves for
awhile with the hope of finding another lodger, but the fates
were once more against us. Easter came, the new term began, and
our prospects were as hopeless as ever. At last our concierge
recommended us to a family who were willing to take the whole of
our apartment, furniture included, off our hands for a few
months. We gladly accepted this offer; for, at any rate, it
ensured the payment of the rent for the ensuing quarter. We
thought if only we could get away from this unfortunate place we
should find some way of getting rid of it altogether. We
therefore decided to find a cheap summer residence for ourselves
in the outskirts of Paris.

Meudon had been mentioned to us as an inexpensive summer resort,
and we selected an apartment in the avenue which joins Meudon to
the neighbouring village of Bellevue. We left full authority with
our concierge as to our rooms in Rue du Helder, and settled down
in our new temporary abode as well as we could. Old Brix, the
good-natured flutist, had to stay with us again, for, owing to
the fact that his usual receipts had been delayed, he would have
been in great straits had we refused to give him shelter. The
removal of our scanty possessions took place on the 29th of
April, and was, after all, no more than a flight from the
impossible into the unknown, for how we were going to live during
the following summer we had not the faintest idea. Schlesinger
had no work for me, and no other sources were available.

The only help we could hope for seemed to lie in journalistic
work which, though rather unremunerative, had indeed given me the
opportunity of making a little success. During the previous
winter I had written a long article on Weber's Freischutz for the
Gazette Musicale. This was intended to prepare the way for the
forthcoming first performance of this opera, after recitatives
from the pen of Berlioz had been added to it. The latter was
apparently far from pleased at my article. In the article I could
not help referring to Berlioz's absurd idea of polishing up this
old-fashioned musical work by adding ingredients that spoiled its
original characteristics, merely in order to give it an
appearance suited to the luxurious repertoire of Opera House. The
fact that the result fully justified my forecasts did not in the
least tend to diminish the ill-feeling I had roused among all
those concerned in the production; but I had the satisfaction of
hearing that the famous George Sand had noticed my article. She
commenced the introduction to a legendary story of French
provincial life by repudiating certain doubts as to the ability
of the French people to understand the mystic, fabulous element
which, as I had shown, was displayed in such a masterly manner in
Freischutz, and she pointed to my article as clearly explaining
the characteristics of that opera.

Another journalistic opportunity arose out of my endeavours to
secure the acceptance of my Rienzi by the Court Theatre at
Dresden. Herr Winkler, the secretary of that theatre, whom I have
already mentioned, regularly reported progress; but as editor of
the Abendzeitung, a paper then rather on the wane, he seized the
opportunity presented by our negotiations in order to ask me to
send him frequent and gratuitous contributions. The consequence
was, that whenever I wanted to know anything concerning the fate
of my opera, I had to oblige him by enclosing an article for his
paper. Now, as these negotiations with the Court Theatre lasted a
very long time, and involved a large number of contributions from
me, I often got into the most extraordinary fixes simply owing to
the fact that I was now once more a prisoner in my room, and had
been so for some time, and therefore knew nothing of what was
going on in Paris.

I had serious reasons for thus withdrawing from the artistic and
social life of Paris. My own painful experiences and my disgust
at all the mockery of that kind of life, once so attractive to me
and yet so alien to my education, had quickly driven me away from
everything connected with it. It is true that the production of
the Huguenots, for instance, which I then heard for the first
time, dazzled me very much indeed. Its beautiful orchestral
execution, and the extremely careful and effective mise en scene,
gave me a grand idea of the great possibilities of such perfect
and definite artistic means. But, strange to say, I never felt
inclined to hear the same opera again. I soon became tired of the
extravagant execution of the vocalists, and I often amused my
friends exceedingly by imitating the latest Parisian methods and
the vulgar exaggerations with which the performances teemed.
Those composers, moreover, who aimed at achieving success by
adopting the style which was then in vogue, could not help,
either, incurring my sarcastic criticism. The last shred of
esteem which I still tried to retain for the 'first lyrical
theatre in the world' was at last rudely destroyed when I saw how
such an empty, altogether un-French work as Donizetti's Favorita
could secure so long and important a run at this theatre.

During the whole time of my stay in Paris I do not think I went
to the opera more than four times. The cold productions at the
Opera Comique, and the degenerate quality of the music produced
there, had repelled me from the start; and the same lack of
enthusiasm displayed by the singers also drove me from Italian
opera. The names, often very famous ones, of these artists who
sang the same four operas for years could not compensate me for
the complete absence of sentiment which characterised their
performance, so unlike that of Schroder-Devrient, which I so
thoroughly enjoyed. I clearly saw that everything was on the down
grade, and yet I cherished no hope or desire to see this state of
decline superseded by a period of newer and fresher life. I
preferred the small theatres, where French talent was shown in
its true light; and yet, as the result of my own longings, I was
too intent upon finding points of relationship in them which
would excite my sympathy, for it to be possible for me to realise
those peculiar excellences in them which did not happen to
interest me at all. Besides, from the very beginning my own
troubles had proved so trying, and the consciousness of the
failure of my Paris schemes had become so cruelly apparent, that,
either out of indifference or annoyance, I declined all
invitations to the theatres. Again and again, much to Minna's
regret, I returned tickets for performances in which Rachel was
to appear at the Theatre Francais, and, in fact, saw that famous
theatre only once, when, some time later, I had to go there on
business for my Dresden patron, who wanted some more articles.

I adopted the most shameful means for filling the columns of the
Abendzeitung; I just strung together whatever I happened to hear
in the evening from Anders and Lehrs. But as they had no very
exciting adventures either, they simply told me all they had
picked up from papers and table-talk, and this I tried to render
with as much piquancy as possible in accordance with the
journalistic style created by Heine, which was all the rage at
the time. My one fear was lest old Hofrath Winkler should some
day discover the secret of my wide knowledge of Paris. Among
other things which I sent to his declining paper was a long
account of the production of Freischutz, He was particularly
interested in it, as he was the guardian of Weber's children; and
when in one of his letters he assured me that he would not rest
until he had got the definite assurance that Rienzi had been
accepted, I sent him, with my most profuse thanks, the German
manuscript of my 'Beethoven' story for his paper. The 1841
edition of this gazette, then published by Arnold, but now no
longer in existence, contains the only print of this manuscript.

My occasional journalistic work was increased by a request from
Lewald, the editor of Europa, a literary monthly, asking me to
write something for him. This man was the first who, from time to
time, had mentioned my name to the public. As he used to publish
musical supplements to his elegant and rather widely read
magazine, I sent him two of my compositions from Konigsberg for
publication. One of these was the music I had set to a melancholy
poem by Scheuerlin, entitled Der Knabe und der Tannenbaum (a work
of which even to-day I am still proud), and my beautiful
Carnevals Lied out of Liebesverbot.

When I wanted to publish my little French compositions--Dors, mon
enfant, and the music to Hugo's Attente and Ronsard's Mignonne--
Lewald not only sent me a small fee--the first I had ever
received for a composition--but commissioned some long articles
on my Paris impressions, which he begged me to write as
entertainingly as possible. For his paper I wrote Pariser
Amusements and Pariser Fatalitaten, in which I gave vent in a
humorous style, a la Heine, to all my disappointing experiences
in Paris, and to all my contempt for the life led by its
inhabitants. In the second I described the existence of a certain
Hermann Pfau, a strange good-for-nothing with whom, during my
early Leipzig days, I had become more intimately acquainted than
was desirable. This man had been wandering about Paris like a
vagrant ever since the beginning of the previous winter, and the
meagre income I derived from arrangements of La Favorita was
often partly consumed in helping this completely broken-down
fellow. So it was only fair that I should get back a few francs
of the money spent on him in Paris by turning his adventures to
some account in Lewald's newspapers.

When I came into contact with Leon Pillet, the manager of the
Opera, my literary work took yet another direction. After
numerous inquiries I eventually discovered that he had taken a
fancy to my draft of the Fliegender Hollander. He informed me of
this, and asked me to sell him the plot, as he was under contract
to supply various composers with subjects for operettas. I tried
to explain to Pillet, both verbally and in writing, that he could
hardly expect that the plot would be properly treated except by
myself, as this draft was in fact my own idea, and that it had
only come to his knowledge by my having submitted it to him. But
it was all to no purpose. He was obliged to admit quite frankly
that the expectations I had cherished as to the result of
Meyerbeer's recommendation to him would not come to anything. He
said there was no likelihood of my getting a commission for a
composition, even of a light opera, for the next seven years, as
his already existing contracts extended over that period. He
asked me to be sensible, and to sell him the draft for a small
amount, so that he might have the music written by an author to
be selected by him; and he added that if I still wished to try my
luck at the Opera House, I had better see the 'ballet-master,' as
he might want some music for a certain dance. Seeing that I
contemptuously refused this proposal, he left me to my own

After endless and unsuccessful attempts at getting the matter
settled, I at last begged Edouard Monnaie, the Commissaire for
the Royal Theatres, who was not only a friend of mine, but also
editor of the Gazette Musicale, to act as mediator. He candidly
confessed that he could not understand Pillet's liking for my
plot, which he also was acquainted with; but as Pillet seemed to
like it--though he would probably lose it--he advised me to
accept anything for it, as Monsieur Paul Faucher, a brother-in-
law of Victor Hugo's, had had an offer to work out the scheme for
a similar libretto. This gentleman had, moreover, declared that
there was nothing new in my plot, as the story of the Vaisseau
Fantome was well known in France. I now saw how I stood, and, in
a conversation with Pillet, at which M. Faucher was present, I
said I would come to an arrangement. My plot was generously
estimated by Pillet at five hundred francs, and I received that
amount from the cash office at the theatre, to be subsequently
deducted from the author's rights of the future poet.

Our summer residence in the Avenue de Meudon now assumed quite a
definite character. These five hundred francs had to help me to
work out the words and music of my Fliegender Hollander for
Germany, while I abandoned the French Vaisseau Fantome to its

The state of my affairs, which was getting ever worse and worse,
was slightly improved by the settlement of this matter. May and
June had gone by, and during these months our troubles had grown
steadily more serious. The lovely season of the year, the
stimulating country air, and the sensation of freedom following
upon my deliverance from the wretchedly paid musical hack-work I
had had to do all the winter, wrought their beneficial effects on
me, and I was inspired to write a small story entitled Ein
glucklicher Abend. This was translated and published in French in
the Gazette Musicale. Soon, however, our lack of funds began to
make itself felt with a severity that was very discouraging. We
felt this all the more keenly when my sister Cecilia and her
husband, following our example, moved to a place quite close to
us. Though not wealthy, they were fairly well-to-do. They came to
see us every day, but we never thought it desirable to let them
know how terribly hard-up we were. One day it came to a climax.
Being absolutely without money, I started out, early one morning,
to walk to Paris--for I had not even enough to pay the railway
fare thither--and I resolved to wander about the whole day,
trudging from street to street, even until late in the afternoon,
in the hope of raising a five-franc piece; but my errand proved
absolutely vain, and I had to walk all the way back to Meudon
again, utterly penniless.

When I told Minna, who came to meet me, of my failure, she
informed me in despair that Hermann Pfau, whom I have mentioned
before, had also come to us in the most pitiful plight, and
actually in want of food, and that she had had to give him the
last of the bread delivered by the baker that morning. The only
hope that now remained was that, at any rate, my lodger Brix, who
by a singular fate was now our companion in misfortune, would
return with some success from the expedition to Paris which he
also had made that morning. At last he, too, returned bathed in
perspiration and exhausted, driven home by the craving for a
meal, which he had been unable to procure in the town, as he
could not find any of the acquaintances he went to see. He begged
most piteously for a piece of bread. This climax to the situation
at last inspired my wife with heroic resolution; for she felt it
her duty to exert herself to appease at least the hunger of her
menfolk. For the first time during her stay on French soil, she
persuaded the baker, the butcher, and wine-merchant, by plausible
arguments, to supply her with the necessaries of life without
immediate cash payment, and Minna's eyes beamed when, an hour
later, she was able to put before us an excellent meal, during
which, as it happened, we were surprised by the Avenarius family,
who were evidently relieved at finding us so well provided for.

This extreme distress was relieved for a time, at the beginning
of July, by the sale of my Vaisseau Fantome, which meant my final
renunciation of my success in Paris. As long as the five hundred
francs lasted, I had an interval of respite for carrying on my
work. The first object on which I spent my money was on the hire
of a piano, a thing of which I had been entirely deprived for
months. My chief intention in so doing was to revive my faith in
myself as a musician, as, ever since the autumn of the previous
year, I had exercised my talents as a journalist and adapter of
operas only. The libretto of the Fliegender Hollander, which I
had hurriedly written during the recent period of distress,
aroused considerable interest in Lehrs; he actually declared I
would never write anything better, and that the Fliegender
Hollander would be my Don Juan; the only thing now was to find
the music for it. As towards the end of the previous winter I
still entertained the hopes of being permitted to treat this
subject for the French Opera, I had already finished some of the
words and music of the lyric parts, and had had the libretto
translated by Emile Deschamps, intending it for a trial
performance, which, alas, never took place. These parts were the
ballad of Senta, the song of the Norwegian sailors, and the
'Spectre Song' of the crew of the Fliegender Hollander. Since
that time I had been so violently torn away from the music that,
when the piano arrived at my rustic retreat, I did not dare to
touch it for a whole day. I was terribly afraid lest I should
discover that my inspiration had left me--when suddenly I was
seized with the idea that I had forgotten to write out the song
of the helmsman in the first act, although, as a matter of fact,
I could not remember having composed it at all, as I had in
reality only just written the lyrics. I succeeded, and was
pleased with the result. The same thing occurred with the
'Spinner's Song,' and when I had written out these two pieces,
and, on further reflection, could not help admitting that they
had really only taken shape in my mind at that moment, I was
quite delirious with joy at the discovery. In seven weeks the
whole of the music of the Fliegender Hollander, except the
orchestration, was finished.

Thereupon followed a general revival in our circle; my exuberant
good spirits astonished every one, and my Avenarius relations in
particular thought I must really be prospering, as I was such
good company. I resumed my long walks in the woods of Meudon,
frequently even consenting to help Minna gather mushrooms, which,
unfortunately, were for her the chief charm of our woodland
retreat, though it filled our landlord with terror when he saw us
returning with our spoils, as he felt sure we should be poisoned
if we ate them.

My destiny, which almost invariably led me into strange
adventures, here once more introduced me to the most eccentric
character to be found not only in the neighbourhood of Meudon,
but even in Paris. This was M. Jadin, who, though he was old
enough to be able to say that he remembered seeing Madame de
Pompadour at Versailles, was still vigorous beyond belief. It
appeared to be his aim to keep the world in a constant state of
conjecture as to his real age; he made everything for himself
with his own hands, including even a quantity of wigs of every
shade, ranging in the most comic variety from youthful flaxen to
the most venerable white, with intermediate shades of grey; these
he wore alternately, as the fancy pleased him. He dabbled in
everything, and I was pleased to find he had a particular fancy
for painting. The fact that all the walls of his rooms were hung
with the most childish caricatures of animal life, and that he
had even embellished the outside of his blinds with the most
ridiculous paintings, did not disconcert me in the least; on the
contrary, it confirmed my belief that he did not dabble in music,
until, to my horror, I discovered that the strangely discordant
sounds of a harp which kept reaching my ears from some unknown
region were actually proceeding from his basement, where he had
two harpsichords of his own invention. He informed me that he had
unfortunately neglected playing them for a long time, but that he
now meant to begin practising again assiduously in order to give
me pleasure. I succeeded in dissuading him from this, by assuring
him that the doctor had forbidden me to listen to the harp, as it
was bad for my nerves. His figure as I saw him for the last time
remains impressed on my memory, like an apparition from the world
of Hoffmann's fairy-tales. In the late autumn, when we were going
back to Paris, he asked us to take with us on our furniture van
an enormous stove-pipe, of which he promised to relieve us
shortly. One very cold day Jadin actually presented himself at
our new abode in Paris, in a most preposterous costume of his own
manufacture, consisting of very thin light-yellow trousers, a
very short pale-green dress-coat with conspicuously long tails,
projecting lace shirt frills and cuffs, a very fair wig, and a
hat so small that it was constantly dropping off; he wore in
addition a quantity of imitation jewellery--and all this on the
undisguised assumption that he could not go about in fashionable
Paris dressed as simply as in the country. He had come for the
stove-pipe; we asked him where the men to carry it were; in reply
he simply smiled, and expressed his surprise at our helplessness;
and thereupon took the enormous stove-pipe under his arm and
absolutely refused to accept our help when we offered to assist
him in carrying it down the stairs, though this operation,
notwithstanding his vaunted skill, occupied him quite half an
hour. Every one in the house assembled to witness this removal,
but he was by no means disconcerted, and managed to get the pipe
through the street door, and then tripped gracefully along the
pavement with it, and disappeared from our sight.

For this short though eventful period, during which I was quite
free to give full scope to my inmost thoughts, I indulged in the
consolation of purely artistic creations. I can only say that,
when it came to an end, I had made such progress that I could
look forward with cheerful composure to the much longer period of
trouble and distress I felt was in store for me. This, in fact,
duly set in, for I had only just completed the last scene when I
found that my five hundred francs were coming to an end, and what
was left was not sufficient to secure me the necessary peace and
freedom from worry for composing the overture; I had to postpone
this until my luck should take another favourable turn, and
meanwhile I was forced to engage in the struggle for a bare
subsistence, making efforts of all kinds that left me neither
leisure nor peace of mind. The concierge from the Rue du Helder
brought us the news that the mysterious family to whom we had let
our rooms had left, and that we were now once more responsible
for the rent. I had to tell him that I would not under any
circumstances trouble about the rooms any more, and that the
landlord might recoup himself by the sale of the furniture we had
left there. This was done at a very heavy loss, and the
furniture, the greater part of which was still unpaid for, was
sacrificed to pay the rent of a dwelling which we no longer

Under the stress of the most terrible privations I still
endeavoured to secure sufficient leisure for working out the
orchestration of the score of the Fliegender Hollander. The rough
autumn weather set in at an exceptionally early date; people were
all leaving their country houses for Paris, and, among them, the
Avenarius family. We, however, could not dream of doing so, for
we could not even raise the funds for the journey. When M. Jadin
expressed his surprise at this, I pretended to be so pressed with
work that I could not interrupt it, although I felt the cold that
penetrated through the thin walls of the house very severely.

So I waited for help from Ernst Castel, one of my old Konigsberg
friends, a well-to-do young merchant, who a short time before had
called on us in Meudon and treated us to a luxurious repast in
Paris, promising at the same time to relieve our necessities as
soon as possible by an advance, which we knew was an easy matter
to him.

By way of cheering us up, Kietz came over to us one day, with a
large portfolio and a pillow under his arm; he intended to amuse
us by working at a large caricature representing myself and my
unfortunate adventures in Paris, and the pillow was to enable
him, after his labours, to get some rest on our hard couch, which
he had noticed had no pillows at the head. Knowing that we had a
difficulty in procuring fuel, he brought with him some bottles of
rum, to 'warm' us with punch during the cold evenings; under
these circumstances I read Hoffmann's Tales to him and my wife.

At last I had news from Konigsberg, but it only opened my eyes to
the fact that the gay young dog had not meant his promise
seriously. We now looked forward almost with despair to the
chilly mists of approaching winter, but Kietz, declaring that it
was his place to find help, packed up his portfolio, placed it
under his arm with the pillow, and went off to Paris. On the next
day he returned with two hundred francs, that he had managed to
procure by means of generous self-sacrifice. We at once set off
for Paris, and took a small apartment near our friends, in the
back part of No. 14 Rue Jacob. I afterwards heard that shortly
after we left it was occupied by Proudhon.

We got back to town on 30th October. Our home was exceedingly
small and cold, and its chilliness in particular made it very bad
for our health. We furnished it scantily with the little we had
saved from the wreck of the Rue du Holder, and awaited the
results of my efforts towards getting my works accepted and
produced in Germany. The first necessity was at all costs to
secure peace and quietness for myself for the short time which I
should have to devote to the overture of the Fliegender
Hollander; I told Kietz that he would have to procure the money
necessary for my household expenses until this work was finished
and the full score of the opera sent off. With the aid of a
pedantic uncle, who had lived in Paris a long time and who was
also a painter, he succeeded in providing me with the necessary
assistance, in instalments of five or ten francs at a time.
During this period I often pointed with cheerful pride to my
boots, which became mere travesties of footgear, as the soles
eventually disappeared altogether.

As long as I was engaged on the Dutchman, and Kietz was looking
after me, this made no difference, for I never went out: but when
I had despatched my completed score to the management of the
Berlin Court Theatre at the beginning of December, the bitterness
of the position could no longer be disguised. It was necessary
for me to buckle to and look for help myself.

What this meant in Paris I learned just about this time from the
hapless fate of the worthy Lehrs. Driven by need such as I myself
had had to surmount a year before at about the same time, he had
been compelled on a broiling hot day in the previous summer to
scour the various quarters of the city breathlessly, to get grace
for bills he had accepted, and which had fallen due. He foolishly
took an iced drink, which he hoped would refresh him in his
distressing condition, but it immediately made him lose his
voice, and from that day he was the victim of a hoarseness which
with terrific rapidity ripened the seeds of consumption,
doubtless latent in him, and developed that incurable disease.
For months he had been growing weaker and weaker, filling us at
last with the gloomiest anxiety: he alone believed the supposed
chill would be cured, if he could heat his room better for a
time. One day I sought him out in his lodging, where I found him
in the icy-cold room, huddled up at his writing-table, and
complaining of the difficulty of his work for Didot, which was
all the more distressing as his employer was pressing him for
advances he had made.

He declared that if he had not had the consolation in those
doleful hours of knowing that I had, at any rate, got my Dutchman
finished, and that a prospect of success was thus opened to the
little circle of friends, his misery would have been hard indeed
to bear. Despite my own great trouble, I begged him to share our
fire and work in my room. He smiled at my courage in trying to
help others, especially as my quarters offered barely space
enough for myself and my wife. However, one evening he came to us
and silently showed me a letter he had received from Villemain,
the Minister of Education at that time, in which the latter
expressed in the warmest terms his great regret at having only
just learned that so distinguished a scholar, whose able and
extensive collaboration in Didot's issue of the Greek classics
had made him participator in a work that was the glory of the
nation, should be in such bad health and straitened
circumstances. Unfortunately, the amount of public money which he
had at his disposal at that moment for subsidising literature
only allowed of his offering him the sum of five hundred francs,
which he enclosed with apologies, asking him to accept it as a
recognition of his merits on the part of the French Government,
and adding that it was his intention to give earnest
consideration as to how he might materially improve his position.

This filled us with the utmost thankfulness on poor Lehrs'
account, and we looked on the incident almost as a miracle. We
could not help assuming, however, that M. Villemain had been
influenced by Didot, who had been prompted by his own guilty
conscience for his despicable exploitation of Lehrs, and by the
prospect of thus relieving himself of the responsibility of
helping him. At the same time, from similar cases within our
knowledge, which were fully confirmed by my own subsequent
experience, we were driven to the conclusion that such prompt and
considerate sympathy on the part of a minister would have been
impossible in Germany. Lehrs would now have a fire to work by,
but alas! our fears as to his declining health could not be
allayed. When we left Paris in the following spring, it was the
certainty that we should never see our dear friend again that
made our parting so painful.

In my own great distress I was again exposed to the annoyance of
having to write numerous unpaid articles for the Abendzeitung, as
my patron, Hofrath Winkler, was still unable to give me any
satisfactory account of the fate of my Rienzi in Dresden. In
these circumstances I was obliged to consider it a good thing
that Halevy's latest opera was at last a success. Schlesinger
came to us radiant with joy at the success of La Reine de Chypre,
and promised me eternal bliss for the piano score and various
other arrangements I had made of this newest rage in the sphere
of opera. So I was again forced to pay the penalty for composing
my own Fliegender Hollander by having to sit down and write out
arrangements of Halevy's opera. Yet this task no longer weighed
on me so heavily. Apart from the wellfounded hope of being at
last recalled from my exile in Paris, and thus being able, as I
thought, to regard this last struggle with poverty as the
decisive one, the arrangement of Halevy's score was far and away
a more interesting piece of hack-work than the shameful labour I
had spent on Donizetti's Favorita.

I paid another visit, the last for a long time to come, to the
Grand Opera to hear this Reine de Chypre. There was, indeed, much
for me to smile at. My eyes were no longer shut to the extreme
weakness of this class of work, and the caricature of it that was
often produced by the method of rendering it. I was sincerely
rejoiced to see the better side of Halevy again. I had taken a
great fancy to him from the time of his La Juive, and had a very
high opinion of his masterly talent.

At the request of Schlesinger I also willingly consented to write
for his paper a long article on Halevy's latest work. In it I
laid particular stress on my hope that the French school might
not again allow the benefits obtained by studying the German
style to be lost by relapsing into the shallowest Italian
methods. On that occasion I ventured, by way of encouraging the
French school, to point to the peculiar significance of Auber,
and particularly to his Stumme von Portici, drawing attention, on
the other hand, to the overloaded melodies of Rossini, which
often resembled sol-fa exercises. In reading over the proof of my
article I saw that this passage about Rossini had been left out,
and M. Edouard Monnaie admitted to me that, in his capacity as
editor of a musical paper, he had felt himself bound to suppress
it. He considered that if I had any adverse criticism to pass on
the composer, I could easily get it published in any other kind
of paper, but not in one devoted to the interests of music,
simply because such a passage could not be printed there without
seeming absurd. It also annoyed him that I had spoken in such
high terms of Auber, but he let it stand. I had to listen to much
from that quarter which enlightened me for ever with regard to
the decay of operatic music in particular, and artistic taste in
general, among Frenchmen of the present day.

I also wrote a longer article on the same opera for my precious
friend Winkler at Dresden, who was still hesitating about
accepting my Rienzi. In doing so I intentionally made merry over
a mishap that had befallen Lachner the conductor. Kustner, who
was theatrical director at Munich at the time, with a view to
giving his friend another chance, ordered a libretto to be
written for him by St. Georges in Paris, so that, through his
paternal care, the highest bliss which a German composer could
dream of might be assured to his protege. Well, it turned out
that when Halevy's Reine de Chypre appeared, it treated the same
subject as Lachner's presumably original work, which had been
composed in the meantime. It mattered very little that the
libretto was a really good one, the value of the bargain lay in
the fact that it was to be glorified by Lachner's music. It
appeared, however, that St. Georges had, as a matter of fact, to
some extent altered the book sent to Munich, but only by the
omission of several interesting features. The fury of the Munich
manager was great, whereupon St. Georges declared his
astonishment that the latter could have imagined he would supply
a libretto intended solely for the German stage at the paltry
price offered by his German customer. As I had formed my own
private opinion as to procuring French librettos for operas, and
as nothing in the world would have induced me to set to music
even the most effective piece of writing by Scribe or St.
Georges, this occurrence delighted me immensely, and in the best
of spirits I let myself go on the point for the benefit of the
readers of the Abendzeitung, who, it is to be hoped, did not
include my future 'friend' Lachner.

In addition, my work on Halevy's opera (Reine de Chypre) brought
me into closer contact with that composer, and was the means of
procuring me many an enlivening talk with that peculiarly good-
hearted and really unassuming man, whose talent, alas, declined
all too soon. Schlesinger, in fact, was exasperated at his
incorrigible laziness. Halevy, who had looked through my piano
score, contemplated several changes with a view to making it
easier, but he did not proceed with them: Schlesinger could not
get the proof-sheets back; the publication was consequently
delayed, and he feared that the popularity of the opera would be
over before the work was ready for the public. He urged me to get
firm hold of Halevy very early in the morning in his rooms, and
compel him to set to work at the alterations in my company.

The first time I reached his house at about ten in the morning, I
found him just out of bed, and he informed me that he really must
have breakfast first. I accepted his invitation, and sat down
with him to a somewhat luxurious meal; my conversation seemed to
appeal to him, but friends came in, and at last Schlesinger among
the number, who burst into a fury at not finding him at work on
the proofs he regarded as so important. Halevy, however, remained
quite unmoved. In the best of good tempers he merely complained
of his latest success, because he had never had more peace than
of late, when his operas, almost without exception, had been
failures, and he had not had anything to do with them after the
first production. Moreover, he feigned not to understand why this
Reine de Chypre in particular should have been a success; he
declared that Schlesinger had engineered it on purpose to worry
him. When he spoke a few words to me in German, one of the
visitors was astonished, whereupon Schlesinger said that all Jews
could speak German. Thereupon Schlesinger was asked if he also
was a Jew. He answered that he had been, but had become a
Christian for his wife's sake. This freedom of speech was a
pleasant surprise to me, because in Germany in such cases we
always studiously avoided the point, as discourteous to the
person referred to. But as we never got to the proof correcting,
Schlesinger made me promise to give Halevy no peace until we had
done them.

The secret of his indifference to success became clear to me in
the course of further conversation, as I learned that he was on
the point of making a wealthy marriage. At first I was inclined
to think that Halevy was simply a man whose youthful talent was
only stimulated to achieve one great success with the object of
becoming rich; in his case, however, this was not the only
reason, as he was very modest in regard to his own capacity, and
had no great opinion of the works of those more fortunate
composers who were writing for the French stage at that time. In
him I thus, for the first time, met with the frankly expressed
admission of disbelief in the value of all our modern creations
in this dubious field of art. I have since come to the conclusion
that this incredulity, often expressed with much less modesty,
justifies the participation of all Jews in our artistic concerns.
Only once did Halevy speak to me with real candour, when, on my
tardy departure for Germany, he wished me the success he thought
my works deserved.

In the year 1860 I saw him again. I had learned that, while the
Parisian critics were giving vent to the bitterest condemnation
of the concerts I was giving at that time, he had expressed his
approval, and this determined me to visit him at the Palais de
l'Institut, of which he had for some time been permanent
secretary. He seemed particularly eager to learn from my own lips
what my new theory about music really was, of which he had heard
such wild rumours. For his own part, he said, he had never found
anything but music in my music, but with this difference, that
mine had generally seemed very good. This gave rise to a lively
discussion on my part, to which he good-humouredly agreed, once
more wishing me success in Paris. This time, however, he did so
with less conviction than when he bade me good-bye for Germany,
which I thought was because be doubted whether I could succeed in
Paris. From this final visit I carried away a depressing sense of
the enervation, both moral and aesthetic, which had overcome one
of the last great French musicians, while, on the other hand, I
could not help feeling that a tendency to a hypocritical or
frankly impudent exploitation of the universal degeneracy marked
all who could be designated as Halevy's successors.

Throughout this period of constant hack-work my thoughts were
entirely bent on my return to Germany, which now presented itself
to my mind in a wholly new and ideal light. I endeavoured in
various ways to secure all that seemed most attractive about the
project, or which filled my soul with longing. My intercourse
with Lehrs had, on the whole, given a decided spur to my former
tendency to grapple seriously with my subjects, a tendency which
had been counteracted by closer contact with the theatre. This
desire now furnished a basis for closer study of philosophical
questions. I had been astonished at times to hear even the grave
and virtuous Lehrs, openly and quite as a matter of course, give
expression to grave doubts concerning our individual survival
after death. He declared that in many great men this doubt, even
though only tacitly held, had been the real incitement to noble
deeds. The natural result of such a belief speedily dawned on me
without, however, causing me any serious alarm. On the contrary,
I found a fascinating stimulus in the fact that boundless regions
of meditation and knowledge were thereby opened up which hitherto
I had merely skimmed in light-hearted levity.

In my renewed attempts to study the Greek classics in the
original, I received no encouragement from Lehrs. He dissuaded me
from doing so with the well-meant consolation, that as I could
only be born once, and that with music in me, I should learn to
understand this branch of knowledge without the help of grammar
or lexicon; whereas if Greek were to be studied with real
enjoyment, it was no joke, and would not suffer being relegated
to a secondary place.

On the other hand, I felt strongly drawn to gain a closer
acquaintance of German history than I had secured at school. I
had Raumer's History of the Hohenstaufen within easy reach to
start upon. All the great figures in this book lived vividly
before my eyes. I was particularly captivated by the personality
of that gifted Emperor Frederick II., whose fortunes aroused my
sympathy so keenly that I vainly sought for a fitting artistic
setting for them. The fate of his son Manfred, on the other hand,
provoked in me an equally well-grounded, but more easily
combated, feeling of opposition.

I accordingly made a plan of a great five-act dramatic poem,
which should also be perfectly adapted to a musical setting. My
impulse to embellish the story with the central figure of
romantic significance was prompted by the fact of Manfred's
enthusiastic reception in Luceria by the Saracens, who supported
him and carried him on from victory to victory till he reached
his final triumph, and this, too, in spite of the fact that he
had come to them betrayed on every hand, banned by the Church,
and deserted by all his followers during his flight through
Apulia and the Abruzzi.

Even at this time it delighted me to find in the German mind the
capacity of appreciating beyond the narrow bounds of nationality
all purely human qualities, in however strange a garb they might
be presented. For in this I recognised how nearly akin it is to
the mind of Greece. In Frederick II. I saw this quality in full
flower. A fair-haired German of ancient Swabian stock, heir to
the Norman realm of Sicily and Naples, who gave the Italian
language its first development, and laid a basis for the
evolution of knowledge and art where hitherto ecclesiastical
fanaticism and feudal brutality had alone contended for power, a
monarch who gathered at his court the poets and sages of eastern
lands, and surrounded himself with the living products of Arabian
and Persian grace and spirit--this man I beheld betrayed by the
Roman clergy to the infidel foe, yet ending his crusade, to their
bitter disappointment, by a pact of peace with the Sultan, from
whom he obtained a grant of privileges to Christians in Palestine
such as the bloodiest victory could scarcely have secured.

In this wonderful Emperor, who finally, under the ban of that
same Church, struggled hopelessly and in vain against the savage
bigotry of his age, I beheld the German ideal in its highest
embodiment. My poem was concerned with the fate of his favourite
son Manfred. On the death of an elder brother, Frederick's empire
had entirely fallen to pieces, and the young Manfred was left,
under papal suzerainty, in nominal possession of the throne of
Apulia. We find him at Capua, in surroundings, and attended by a
court, in which the spirit of his great father survives, in a
state of almost effeminate degeneration. In despair of ever
restoring the imperial power of the Hohenstaufen, he seeks to
forget his sadness in romance and song. There now appears upon
the scene a young Saracen lady, just arrived from the East, who,
by appealing to the alliance between East and West concluded by
Manfred's noble father, conjures the desponding son to maintain
his imperial heritage. She acts the part of an inspired
prophetess, and though the prince is quickly filled with love for
her, she succeeds in keeping him at a respectful distance. By a
skilfully contrived flight she snatches him, not only from the
pursuit of rebellious Apulian nobles, but also from the papal ban
which is threatening to depose him from his throne. Accompanied
only by a few faithful followers, she guides him through mountain
fastnesses, where one night the wearied son beholds the spirit of
Frederick II. passing with feudal array through the Abruzzi, and
beckoning him on to Luceria.

To this district, situated in the Papal States, Frederick had, by
a peaceful compact, transplanted the remnant of his Saracen
retainers, who had previously been wreaking terrible havoc in the
mountains of Sicily. To the great annoyance of the Pope, he had
handed the town over to them in fee-simple, thus securing for
himself a band of faithful allies in the heart of an ever-
treacherous and hostile country.

Fatima, as my heroine is called, has prepared, through the
instrumentality of trusty friends, a reception for Manfred in
this place. When the papal governor has been expelled by a
revolution, he slips through the gateway into the town, is
recognised by the whole population as the son of their beloved
Emperor, and, amid wildest enthusiasm, is placed at their head,
to lead them against the enemies of their departed benefactor. In
the meantime, while Manfred is marching on from victory to
victory in his reconquest of the whole kingdom of Apulia, the
tragic centre of my action still continues to be the unvoiced
longing of the lovelorn victor for the marvellous heroine.

She is the child of the great Emperor's love for a noble Saracen
maiden. Her mother, on her deathbed, had sent her to Manfred,
foretelling that she would work wonders for his glory provided
she never yielded to his passion. Whether Fatima was to know that
she was his sister I left undecided in framing my plot. Meanwhile
she is careful to show herself to him only at critical moments,
and then always in such a way as to remain unapproachable. When
at last she witnesses the completion of her task in his
coronation at Naples, she determines, in obedience to her vow, to
slip away secretly from the newly anointed king, that she may
meditate in the solitude of her distant home upon the success of
her enterprise.

The Saracen Nurreddin, who had been a companion of her youth, and
to whose help she had chiefly owed her success in rescuing
Manfred, is to be the sole partner of her flight. To this man,
who loves her with passionate ardour, she had been promised in
her childhood. Before her secret departure she pays a last visit
to the slumbering king. This rouses her lover's furious jealousy,
as he construes her act into a proof of unfaithfulness on the
part of his betrothed. The last look of farewell which Fatima
casts from a distance at the young monarch, on his return from
his coronation, inflames the jealous lover to wreak instant
vengeance for the supposed outrage upon his honour. He strikes
the prophetess to the earth, whereupon she thanks him with a
smile for having delivered her from an unbearable existence. At
the sight of her body Manfred realises that henceforth happiness
has deserted him for ever.

This theme I had adorned with many gorgeous scenes and
complicated situations, so that when I had worked it out I could
regard it as a fairly suitable, interesting, and effective whole,
especially when compared with other well-known subjects of a
similar nature. Yet I could never rouse myself to sufficient
enthusiasm over it to give my serious attention to its
elaboration, especially as another theme now laid its grip upon
me. This was suggested to me by a pamphlet on the 'Venusberg,'
which accidentally fell into my hands.

If all that I regarded as essentially German had hitherto drawn
me with ever-increasing force, and compelled me to its eager
pursuit, I here found it suddenly presented to me in the simple
outlines of a legend, based upon the old and well-known ballad of
'Tannhauser.' True, its elements were already familiar to me from
Tieck's version in his Phantasus. But his conception of the
subject had flung me back into the fantastic regions created in
my mind at an earlier period by Hoffmann, and I should certainly
never have been tempted to extract the framework of a dramatic
work from his elaborate story. The point in this popular pamphlet
which had so much weight with me was that it brought
'Tannhauser,' if only by a passing hint, into touch with 'The
Minstrel's War on the Wartburg.' I had some knowledge of this
also from Hoffmann's account in his Serapionsbrudern. But I felt
that the writer had only grasped the old legend in a distorted
form, and therefore endeavoured to gain a closer acquaintance
with the true aspect of this attractive story. At this juncture
Lehrs brought me the annual report of the proceedings of the
Konigsberg German Society, in which the 'Wartburg contest' was
criticised with a fair amount of detail by Lukas. Here I also
found the original text. Although I could utilise but little of
the real setting for my own purpose, yet the picture it gave me
of Germany in the Middle Ages was so suggestive that I found I
had not previously had the smallest conception of what it was

As a sequel to the Wartburg poem, I also found in the same copy a
critical study, 'Lohengrin,' which gave in full detail the main
contents of that widespread epic.

Thus a whole new world was opened to me, and though as yet I had
not found the form in which I might cope with Lohengrin, yet this
image also lived imperishably within me. When, therefore, I
afterwards made a close acquaintance with the intricacies of this
legend, I could visualise the figure of the hero with a
distinctness equal to that of my conception of Tannhauser at this

Under these influences my longing for a speedy return to Germany
grew ever more intense, for there I hoped to earn a new home for
myself where I could enjoy leisure for creative work. But it was
not yet possible even to think of occupying myself with such
grateful tasks. The sordid necessities of life still bound me to
Paris. While thus employed, I found an opportunity of exerting
myself in a way more congenial to my desires. When I was a young
man at Prague, I had made the acquaintance of a Jewish musician
and composer called Dessauer--a man who was not devoid of talent,
who in fact achieved a certain reputation, but was chiefly known
among his intimates on account of his hypochondria. This man, who
was now in flourishing circumstances, was so far patronised by
Schlesinger that the latter seriously proposed to help him to a
commission for Grand Opera. Dessauer had come across my poem of
the Fliegender Hollander, and now insisted that I should draft a
similar plot for him, as M. Leon Pillet's Vaisseau Fantome had
already been given to M. Dietsch, the letter's musical conductor,
to set to music. From this same conductor Dessauer obtained the
promise of a like commission, and he now offered me two hundred
francs to provide him with a similar plot, and one congenial to
his hypochondriacal temperament.

To meet this wish I ransacked my brain for recollections of
Hoffmann, and quickly decided to work up his Bergwerke von Falun.
The moulding of this fascinating and marvellous material
succeeded as admirably as I could wish. Dessauer also felt
convinced that the topic was worth his while to set to music. His
dismay was accordingly all the greater when Pillet rejected our
plot on the ground that the staging would be too difficult, and
that the second act especially would entail insurmountable
obstacles for the ballet, which had to be given each time. In
place of this Dessauer wished me to compose him an oratorio on
'Mary Magdalene.' As on the day that he expressed this wish he
appeared to be suffering from acute melancholia, so much so that
he declared he had that morning seen his own head lying beside
his bed, I thought well not to refuse his request. I asked him,
therefore, to give me time, and I regret to say that ever since
that day I have continued to take it..

It was amid such distractions as these that this winter at length
drew to an end, while my prospects of getting to Germany
gradually grew more hopeful, though with a slowness that sorely
tried my patience. I had kept up a continuous correspondence with
Dresden respecting Rienzi, and in the worthy chorus-master
Fischer I at last found an honest man who was favourably disposed
to me. He sent me reliable and reassuring reports as to the
state of my affairs.

After receiving news, early in January, 1842, of renewed delay, I
at last heard that by the end of February the work would be ready
for performance. I was seriously uneasy at this, as I was afraid
of not being able to accomplish the journey by that date. But
this news also was soon contradicted, and the honest Fischer
informed me that my opera had had to be postponed till the autumn
of that year. I realised fully that it would never be performed
if I could not be present in person at Dresden. When eventually
in March Count Redern, the director of the Theatre Royal in
Berlin, told me that my Fliegender Hollander had been accepted
for the opera there, I thought I had sufficient reason to return
to Germany at all costs as soon as possible.

I had already had various experiences as to the views of German
managers on this work. Relying on the plot, which had pleased the
manager of the Paris Opera so much, I had sent the libretto in
the first instance to my old acquaintance Ringelhardt, the
director of the Leipzig theatre. But the man had cherished an
undisguised aversion for me since my Liebesverbot. As he could
not this time possibly object to any levity in my subject, he now
found fault with its gloomy solemnity and refused to accept it.
As I had met Councillor Kustner, at that time manager of the
Munich Court Theatre, when he was making arrangements about La
Reine de Chypre in Paris, I now sent him the text of the Dutchman
with a similar request. He, too, returned it, with the assurance
that it was not suited to German stage conditions, or to the
taste of the German public. As he had ordered a French libretto
for Munich, I knew what he meant. When the score was finished, I
sent it to Meyerbeer in Berlin, with a letter for Count Redern,
and begged him, as he had been unable to help me to anything in
Paris, in spite of his desire to do so, to be kind enough to use
his influence in Berlin in favour of my composition. I was
genuinely astonished at the truly prompt acceptance of my work
two months later, which was accompanied by very gratifying
assurances from the Count, and I was delighted to see in it a
proof of Meyerbeer's sincere and energetic intervention in my
favour. Strange to say, on my return to Germany soon afterwards,
I was destined to learn that Count Redern had long since retired
from the management of the Berlin Opera House, and that Kustner
of Munich had already been appointed his successor; the upshot of
this was that Count Redern's consent, though very courteous,
could not by any means be taken seriously, as the realisation of
it depended not on him but on his successor. What the result was
remains to be seen.

A circumstance that eventually facilitated my long-desired return
to Germany, which was now justified by my good prospects, was the
tardily awakened interest taken in my position by the wealthy
members of my family. If Didot had had reasons of his own for
applying to the Minister Villemain for support for Lehrs, so also
Avenarius, my brother-in-law in Paris, when he heard how I was
struggling against poverty, one day took it into his head to
surprise me with some quite unexpected help secured by his appeal
to my sister Louisa. On 26th December of the fast-waning year
1841 I went home to Minna carrying a goose under my arm, and in
the beak of the bird we found a five-hundred-franc note. This
note had been given me by Avenarius as the result of a request on
my behalf made by my sister Louisa to a friend of hers, a wealthy
merchant named Schletter. This welcome addition to our extremely
straitened resources might not in itself have been sufficient to
put me in an exceedingly good-humour, had I not clearly seen in
it the prospect of escaping altogether from my position in Paris.
As the leading German managers had now consented to the
performance of two of my compositions, I thought I might
seriously reproach my brother-in-law, Friedrich Brockhaus, who
had repulsed me the year before when I applied to him in great
distress, on the ground that he 'disapproved of my profession.'
This time I might be more successful in securing the wherewithal
for my return. I was not mistaken, and when the time came I was
supplied from this source with the necessary travelling expenses.

With these prospects, and my position thus improved, I found
myself spending the second half of the winter 1841-42 in high
spirits, and affording constant entertainment to the small circle
of friends which my relationship to Avenarius had created around
me. Minna and I frequently spent our evenings with this family
and others, amongst whom I have pleasant recollections of a
certain Herr Kuhne, the head of a private school, and his wife. I
contributed so greatly to the success of their little soirees,
and was always so willing to improvise dances on the piano for
them to dance to, that I soon ran the risk of enjoying an almost
burdensome popularity.

At length the hour struck for my deliverance; the day came on
which, as I devoutly hoped, I might turn my back on Paris for
ever. It was the 7th of April, and Paris was already gay with the
first luxuriant buddings of spring. In front of our windows,
which all the winter had looked upon a bleak and desolate garden,
the trees were burgeoning, and the birds sang. Our emotion at
parting from our dear friends Anders, Lehrs, and Kietz, however,
was great, almost overwhelming. The first seemed already doomed
to an early death, for his health was exceedingly bad, and he was
advanced in years. About Lehrs' condition, as I have already
said, there could no longer be any doubt, and it was dreadful,
after so short an experience as the two and a half years which I
had spent in Paris, to see the ravages that want had wrought
among good, noble, and sometimes even distinguished men. Kietz,
for whose future I was concerned, less on grounds of health than
of morals, touched our hearts once more by his boundless and
almost childlike good-nature. Fancying, for instance, that I
might not have enough money for the journey, he forced me, in
spite of all resistance, to accept another five-franc piece,
which was about all that remained of his own fortune at the
moment: he also stuffed a packet of good French snuff for me into
the pocket of the coach, in which we at last rumbled through the
boulevards to the barriers, which we passed but were unable to
see this time, because our eyes were blinded with tears.



The journey from Paris to Dresden at that time took five days and
nights. On the German frontier, near Forbach, we met with stormy
weather and snow, a greeting which seemed inhospitable after the
spring we had already enjoyed in Paris. And, indeed, as we
continued our journey through our native land once more, we found
much to dishearten us, and I could not help thinking that the
Frenchmen who on leaving Germany breathed more freely on reaching
French soil, and unbuttoned their coats, as though passing from
winter into summer, were not so very foolish after all, seeing
that we, for our part, were now compelled to seek protection
against this conspicuous change of temperature by being very
careful to put on sufficient clothing. The unkindness of the
elements became perfect torture when, later on, between Frankfort
and Leipzig, we were swept into the stream of visitors to the
Great Easter Fair.

The pressure on the mail-coaches was so great, that for two days
and a night, amid ceaseless storm, snow and rain, we were
continually changing from one wretched 'substitute' to another,
thus turning our journey into an adventure of almost the same
type as our former voyage at sea.

One solitary flash of brightness was afforded by our view of the
Wartburg, which we passed during the only sunlit hour of this
journey. The sight of this mountain fastness, which, from the
Fulda side, is clearly visible for a long time, affected me
deeply. A neighbouring ridge further on I at once christened the
Horselberg, and as we drove through the valley, pictured to
myself the scenery for the third act of my Tannhauser. This scene
remained so vividly in my mind, that long afterwards I was able
to give Desplechin, the Parisian scene-painter, exact details
when he was working out the scenery under my direction. If I had
already been impressed by the significance of the fact that my
first journey through the German Rhine district, so famous in
legend, should have been made on my way home from Paris, it
seemed an even more ominous coincidence that my first sight of
Wartburg, which was so rich in historical and mythical
associations, should come just at this moment. The view so warmed
my heart against wind and weather, Jews and the Leipzig Fair,
that in the end I arrived, on 12th April, 1842, safe and sound,
with my poor, battered, half-frozen wife, in that selfsame city
of Dresden which I had last seen on the occasion of my sad
separation from my Minna, and my departure for my northern place
of exile.

We put up at the 'Stadt Gotha' inn. The city, in which such
momentous years of my childhood and boyhood had been spent,
seemed cold and dead beneath the influences of the wild, gloomy
weather. Indeed, everything there that could remind me of my
youth seemed dead. No hospitable house received us. We found my
wife's parents living in cramped and dingy lodgings in very
straitened circumstances, and were obliged at once to look about
for a small abode for ourselves. This we found in the Topfergasse
for twenty-one marks a month. After paying the necessary business
visits in connection with Rienzi, and making arrangements for
Minna during my brief absence, I set out on 15th April direct for
Leipzig, where I saw my mother and family for the first time in
six years.

During this period, which had been so eventful for my own life,
my mother had undergone a great change in her domestic position
through the death of Rosalie. She was living in a pleasant roomy
flat near the Brockhaus family, where she was free from all those
household cares to which, owing to her large family, she had
devoted so many years of anxious thought. Her bustling energy,
which had almost amounted to hardness, had entirely given place
to a natural cheerfulness and interest in the family prosperity
of her married daughters. For the blissful calm of this happy old
age she was mainly indebted to the affectionate care of her son-
in-law, Friedrich Brockhaus, to whom I expressed my heartfelt
thanks for his goodness. She was exceedingly astonished and
pleased to see me unexpectedly enter her room. Any bitterness
that ever existed between us had utterly vanished, and her only
complaint was that she could not put me up in her house, instead
of my brother Julius, the unfortunate goldsmith, who had none of
the qualities that could make him a suitable companion for her.
She was full of hope for the success of my undertaking, and felt
this confidence strengthened by the favourable prophecy which our
dear Rosalie had made about me shortly before her sad death.

For the present, however, I only stayed a few days in Leipzig, as
I had first to visit Berlin in order to make definite
arrangements with Count Redern for the performance of the
Fliegender Hollander. As I have already observed, I was here at
once destined to learn that the Count was on the point of
retiring from the directorship, and he accordingly referred me
for all further decisions to the new director, Kustner, who had
not yet arrived in Berlin. I now suddenly realised what this
strange circumstance meant, and knew that, so far as the Berlin
negotiations went, I might as well have remained in Paris. This
impression was in the main confirmed by a visit to Meyerbeer,
who, I found, regarded my coming to Berlin as over hasty.
Nevertheless, he behaved in a kind and friendly manner, only
regretting that he was just on the point of 'going away,' a state
in which I always found him whenever I visited him again in

Mendelssohn was also in the capital about this time, having been
appointed one of the General Musical Directors to the King of
Prussia. I also sought him out, having been previously introduced
to him in Leipzig. He informed me that he did not believe his
work would prosper in Berlin, and that he would rather go back to
Leipzig. I made no inquiry about the fate of the score of my
great symphony performed at Leipzig in earlier days, which I had
more or less forced upon him so many years ago. On the other
hand, he did not betray to me any signs of remembering that
strange offering. In the midst of the lavish comforts of his home
he struck me as cold, yet it was not so much that he repelled me
as that I recoiled from him. I also paid a visit to Rellstab, to
whom I had a letter of introduction from his trusty publisher, my
brother-in-law Brockhaus. Here it was not so much smug ease that
I encountered; I doubtless felt repulsed more by the fact that he
showed no inclination whatever to interest himself in my affairs.

I grew very low spirited in Berlin. I could almost have wished
Commissioner Cerf back again. Miserable as had been the time I
had spent here years before, I had then, at any rate, met one
man, who, for all the bluntness of his exterior, had treated me
with true friendliness and consideration. In vain did I try to
call to mind the Berlin through whose streets I had walked, with
all the ardour of youth, by the side of Laube. After my
acquaintance with London, and still more with Paris, this city,
with its sordid spaces and pretensions to greatness, depressed me
deeply, and I breathed a hope that, should no luck crown my life,
it might at least be spent in Paris rather than in Berlin.

On my return from this wholly fruitless expedition, I first went
to Leipzig for a few days, where, on this occasion, I stayed with
my brother-in-law, Hermann Brockhaus, who was now Professor of
Oriental Languages at the University. His family had been
increased by the birth of two daughters, and the atmosphere of
unruffled content, illuminated by mental activity and a quiet but
vivid interest in all things relating to the higher aspects of
life, greatly moved my homeless and vagabond soul. One evening,
after my sister had seen to her children, whom she had brought up
very well, and had sent them with gentle words to bed, we
gathered in the large richly stocked library for our evening meal
and a long confidential chat. Here I broke out into a violent fit
of weeping, and it seemed as though the tender sister, who five
years before had known me during the bitterest straits of my
early married life in Dresden, now really understood me. At the
express suggestion of my brother-in-law Hermann, my family
tendered me a loan, to help me to tide over the time of waiting
for the performance of my Rienzi in Dresden. This, they said,
they regarded merely as a duty, and assured me that I need have
no hesitation whatever in accepting it. It consisted of a sum of
six hundred marks, which was to be paid me in monthly instalments
for six months. As I had no prospect of being able to reply on
any other source of income, there was every chance of Minna's
talent for management being put severely to the test, if this
were to carry us through; it could be done, however, and I was
able to return to Dresden with a great sense of relief.

While I was staying with my relatives I played and sang them the
Fliegender Hollander for the first time connectedly, and seemed
to arouse considerable interest by my performance, for when,
later on, my sister Louisa heard the opera in Dresden, she
complained that much of the effect previously produced by my
rendering did not come back to her. I also sought out my old
friend Apel again. The poor man had gone stone blind, but he
astonished me by his cheeriness and contentment, and thereby once
and for all deprived me of any reason for pitying him. As he
declared that he knew the blue coat I was wearing very well,
though it was really a brown one, I thought it best not to argue
the point, and I left Leipzig in a state of wonder at finding
every one there so happy and contented.

When I reached Dresden, on 26th April, I found occasion to
grapple more vigorously with my lot. Here I was enlivened by
closer intercourse with the people on whom I had to rely for a
successful production of Rienzi. It is true that the results of
my interviews with Luttichau, the general manager, and Reissiger,
the musical conductor, left me cold and incredulous. Both were
sincerely astonished at my arrival in Dresden; and the same might
even be said of my frequent correspondent and patron, Hofrath
Winkler, who also would have preferred my remaining in Paris.
But, as has been my constant experience both before and since,
help and encouragement have always come to me from humbler and
never from the more exalted ranks of life.

So in this case, too, I met my first agreeable sensation in the
overwhelmingly cordial reception I received from the old chorus-
master, Wilhelm Fischer. I had had no previous acquaintance with
him, yet he was the only person who had taken the trouble to read
my score carefully, and had not only conceived serious hopes for
the success of my opera, but had worked energetically to secure
its being accepted and practised. The moment I entered his room
and told him my name, he rushed to embrace me with a loud cry,
and in a second I was translated to an atmosphere of hope.
Besides this man, I met in the actor Ferdinand Heine and his
family another sure foundation for hearty and, indeed, deep-
rooted friendship. It is true that I had known him from
childhood, for at that time he was one of the few young people
whom my stepfather Geyer liked to see about him. In addition to a
fairly decided talent for drawing, it was chiefly his pleasant
social gifts that had won him an entrance into our more intimate
family circle. As he was very small and slight, my stepfather
nicknamed him DavidCHEN, and under this appellation he used to
take part with great affability and good-humour in our little
festivities, and above all in our friendly excursions into the
neighbouring country, in which, as I mentioned in its place, even
Carl Maria von Weber used to join. Belonging to the good old
school, he had become a useful, if not prominent, member of the
Dresden stage. He possessed all the knowledge and qualities for a
good stage manager, but never succeeded in inducing the committee
to give him that appointment. It was only as a designer of
costumes that he found further scope for his talents, and in this
capacity he was included in the consultations over the staging of

Thus it came about that he had the opportunity of busying himself
with the work of a member, now grown to man's estate, of the very
family with whom he had spent such pleasant days in his youth. He
greeted me at once as a child of the house, and we two homeless
creatures found in our memories of this long-lost home the first
common basis to our friendship. We generally spent our evenings
with old Fischer at Heine's, where, amid hopeful conversation, we
regaled ourselves on potatoes and herrings, of which the meal
chiefly consisted. Schroder-Devrient was away on a holiday;
Tichatschek, who was also on the point of going away, I had just
time to see, and with him I went quickly through a part of his
role in Rienzi. His brisk and lively nature, his glorious voice
and great musical talent, gave special weight to his encouraging
assurance that he delighted in the role of Rienzi. Heine also
told me that the mere prospect of having many new costumes, and
especially new silver armour, had inspired Tichatschek with the
liveliest desire to play this part, so that I might rely on him
under any circumstances. Thus I could at once give closer
attention to the preparations for practice, which was fixed to
begin in the late summer, after the principal singers had
returned from their holiday.

I had to make special efforts to pacify my friend Fischer by my
readiness to abbreviate the score, which was excessively lengthy.
His intentions in the matter were so honest that I gladly sat
down with him to the wearisome task. I played and sang my score
to the astonished man on an old grand piano in the rehearsing-
room of the Court Theatre, with such frantic vigour that,
although he did not mind if the instrument came to grief, he grew
concerned about my chest. Finally, amid hearty laughter, he
ceased to argue about cutting down passages, as precisely where
he thought something might be omitted I proved to him with
headlong eloquence that it was precisely here that the main point
lay. He plunged with me head over heels into the vast chaos of
sound, against which he could raise no objection, beyond the
testimony of his watch, whose correctness I also ended by
disputing. As sops I light-heartedly flung him the big pantomime
and most of the ballet in the second act, whereby I reckoned we
might save a whole half-hour. Thus, thank goodness, the whole
monster was at last handed over to the clerks to make a fair copy
of, and the rest was left for time to accomplish.

We next discussed what we should do in the summer, and I decided
upon a stay of several months at Toplitz, the scene of my first
youthful flights, whose fine air and baths, I hoped, would also
benefit Minna's health. But before we could carry out this
intention I had to pay several more visits to Leipzig to settle
the fate of my Dutchman. On 5th May I proceeded thither to have
an interview with Kustner, the new director of the Berlin Opera,
who I had been told had just arrived there. He was now placed in
the awkward position of being about to produce in Berlin the very
opera which he had before declined in Munich, as it had been
accepted by his predecessor in office. He promised me to consider
what steps he would take in this predicament. In order to learn
the result of Kustner's deliberations, I determined, on 2nd June,
to seek him out, and this time in Berlin itself. But at Leipzig I
found a letter in which he begged me to wait patiently a little
longer for his final verdict. I took advantage of being in the
neighbourhood of Halle to pay a visit to my eldest brother
Albert. I was very much grieved and depressed to find the poor
fellow, whom I must give the credit of having the greatest
perseverance and a quite remarkable talent for dramatic song,
living in the unworthy and mean circumstances which the Halle
Theatre offered to him and his family. The realisation of
conditions into which I myself had once nearly sunk now filled me
with indescribable abhorrence. Still more harrowing was it to
hear my brother speak of this state in tones which showed, alas,
only too plainly, the hopeless submission with which he had
already resigned himself to its horrors. The only consolation I
could find was the personality and childlike nature of his step-
daughter Johanna, who was then fifteen, and who sang me Spohr's
Rose, wie bist du so schon with great expression and in a voice
of an extraordinarily beautiful quality.

Then I returned to Dresden, and at last, in wonderful weather,
undertook the pleasant journey to Toplitz with Minna and one of
her sisters, reaching that place on 9th June, where we took up
our quarters at a second-class inn, the Eiche, at Schonau. Here
we were soon joined by my mother, who paid her usual yearly visit
to the warm baths all the more gladly this time because she knew
she would find me there. If she had before had any prejudice
against Minna because of my premature marriage to her, a closer
acquaintance with her domestic gifts soon changed it into
respect, and she quickly learned to love the partner of my
doleful days in Paris. Although my mother's vagaries demanded no
small consideration, yet what particularly delighted me about her
was the astonishing vivacity of her almost childlike imagination,
a faculty she retained to such a degree that one morning she
complained that my relation of the Tannhauser legend on the
previous evening had given her a whole night of pleasant but most
tiring sleeplessness.

By dint of appealing letters to Schletter, a wealthy patron of
art in Leipzig, I managed to do something for Kietz, who, had
remained behind in misery in Paris, and also to provide Minna
with medical treatment. I also succeeded to a certain extent in
ameliorating my own woeful financial position. Scarcely were
these tasks accomplished, when I started off in my old boyish way
on a ramble of several days on foot through the Bohemian
mountains, in order that I might mentally work out my plan of the
'Venusberg' amid the pleasant associations of such a trip. Here I
took the fancy of engaging quarters in Aussig on the romantic
Schreckenstein, where for several days I occupied the little
public room, in which straw was laid down for me to sleep on at
night. I found recreation in daily ascents of the Wostrai, the
highest peak in the neighbourhood, and so keenly did the
fantastic solitude quicken my youthful spirit, that I clambered
about the ruins of the Schreckenstein the whole of one moonlit
night, wrapped only in a blanket, in order myself to provide the
ghost that was lacking, and delighted myself with the hope of
scaring some passing wayfarer.

Here I drew up in my pocket-book the detailed plan of a three-act
opera on the 'Venusberg,' and subsequently carried out the
composition of this work in strict accordance with the sketch I
then made.

One day, when climbing the Wostrai, I was astonished, on turning
the corner of a valley, to hear a merry dance tune whistled by a
goatherd perched up on a crag. I seemed immediately to stand
among the chorus of pilgrims filing past the goatherd in the
valley; but I could not afterwards recall the goatherd's tune, so
I was obliged to help myself out of the matter in the usual way.

Enriched by these spoils, I returned to Toplitz in a wonderfully
cheerful frame of mind and robust health, but on receiving the
interesting news that Tichatschek and Schroder-Devrient were on
the point of returning, I was impelled to set off once more for
Dresden. I took this step, not so much to avoid missing any of
the early rehearsals of Rienzi, as because I wanted to prevent
the management replacing it by something else. I left Minna for a
time with my mother, and reached Dresden on 18th July.

I hired a small lodging in a queer house, since pulled down,
facing the Maximilian Avenue, and entered into a fairly lively
intercourse with our operatic stars who had just returned. My old
enthusiasm for Schroder-Devrient revived when I saw her again
more frequently in opera. Strange was the effect produced upon me
when I heard her for the first time in Gretry's Blaubart, for I
could not help remembering that this was the first opera I had
ever seen. I had been taken to it as a boy of five (also in
Dresden), and I still retained my wondrous first impressions of
it. All my earliest childish memories were revived, and I
recollected how frequently and with what emphasis I had myself
sung Bluebeard's song: Ha, die Falsche! Die Thure offen! to the
amusement of the whole house, with a paper helmet of my own
making on my head. My friend Heine still remembered it well.

In other respects the operatic performances were not such as to
impress me very favourably: I particularly missed the rolling
sound of the fully equipped Parisian orchestra of string
instruments. I also noticed that, when opening the fine new
theatre, they had quite forgotten to increase the number of these
instruments in proportion to the enlarged space. In this, as well
as in the general equipment of the stage, which was materially
deficient in many respects, I was impressed by the sense of a
certain meanness about theatrical enterprise in Germany, which
became most noticeable when reproductions were given, often with
wretched translations of the text, of the Paris opera repertoire.
If even in Paris my dissatisfaction with this treatment of opera
had been great, the feeling which once drove me thither from the
German theatres now returned with redoubled energy. I actually
felt degraded again, and nourished within my breast a contempt so
deep that for a time I could hardly endure the thought of signing
a lasting contract, even with one of the most up-to-date of
German opera houses, but sadly wondered what steps I could take
to hold my ground between disgust and desire in this strange

Nothing but the sympathy inspired by communion with persons
endowed with exceptional gifts enabled me to triumph over my
scruples. This statement applies above all to my great ideal,
Schroder-Devrient, in whose artistic triumphs it had once been my
most burning desire to be associated. It is true that many years
had elapsed since my first youthful impressions of her were
formed. As regards her looks, the verdict which, in the following
winter, was sent to Paris by Berlioz during his stay in Dresden,
was so far correct that her somewhat 'maternal' stoutness was
unsuited to youthful parts, especially in male attire, which, as
in Rienzi, made too great a demand upon the imagination. Her
voice, which in point of quality had never been an exceptionally
good medium for song, often landed her in difficulties, and in
particular she was forced, when singing, to drag the time a
little all through. But her achievements were less hampered now
by these material hindrances than by the fact that her repertoire
consisted of a limited number of leading parts, which she had
sung so frequently that a certain monotony in the conscious
calculation of effect often developed into a mannerism which,
from her tendency to exaggeration, was at times almost painful.

Although these defects could not escape me, yet I, more than any
one, was especially qualified to overlook such minor weaknesses,
and realise with enthusiasm the incomparable greatness of her
performances. Indeed, it only needed the stimulus of excitement,
which this actress's exceptionally eventful life still procured,
fully to restore the creative power of her prime, a fact of which
I was subsequently to receive striking demonstrations. But I was
seriously troubled and depressed at seeing how strong was the
disintegrating effect of theatrical life upon the character of
this singer, who had originally been endowed with such great and
noble qualities. From the very mouth through which the great
actress's inspired musical utterances reached me, I was compelled
to hear at other times very similar language to that in which,
with but few exceptions, nearly all heroines of the stage
indulge. The possession of a naturally fine voice, or even mere
physical advantages, which might place her rivals on the same
footing as herself in public favour, was more than she could
endure; and so far was she from acquiring the dignified
resignation worthy of a great artist, that her jealousy increased
to a painful extent as years went on. I noticed this all the more
because I had reason to suffer from it. A fact which caused me
even greater trouble, however, was that she did not grasp music
easily, and the study of a new part involved difficulties which
meant many a painful hour for the composer who had to make her
master his work. Her difficulty in learning new parts, and
particularly that of Adriano in Rienzi, entailed disappointments
for her which caused me a good deal of trouble.

If, in her case, I had to handle a great and sensitive nature
very tenderly, I had, on the other hand, a very easy task with
Tichatschek, with his childish limitations and superficial, but
exceptionally brilliant, talents. He did not trouble to learn his
parts by heart, as he was so musical that he could sing the most
difficult music at sight, and thought all further study needless,
whereas with most other singers the work consisted in mastering
the score. Hence, if he sang through a part at rehearsals often
enough to impress it on his memory, the rest, that is to say,
everything pertaining to vocal art and dramatic delivery, would
follow naturally. In this way he picked up any clerical errors
there might be in the libretto, and that with such incorrigible
pertinacity, that he uttered the wrong words with just the same
expression as if they were correct. He waved aside good-
humouredly any expostulations or hints as to the sense with the
remark, 'Ah! that will be all right soon.' And, in fact, I very
soon resigned myself and quite gave up trying to get the singer
to use his intelligence in the interpretation of the part of the
hero, for which I was very agreeably compensated by the light-
hearted enthusiasm with which he flung himself into his congenial
role, and the irresistible effect of his brilliant voice.

With the exception of these two actors who played the leading
parts, I had only very moderate material at my disposal. But
there was plenty of goodwill, and I had recourse to an ingenious
device to induce Reissiger the conductor to hold frequent piano
rehearsals. He had complained to me of the difficulty he had
always found in securing a well-written libretto, and thought it
was very sensible of me to have acquired the habit of writing my
own. In his youth he had unfortunately neglected to do this for
himself, and yet this was all he lacked to make a successful
dramatic composer. I feel bound to confess that he possessed 'a
good deal of melody'; but this, he added, did not seem sufficient
to inspire the singers with the requisite enthusiasm. His
experience was that Schroder-Devrient, in his Adele de Foix,
would render very indifferently the same final passage with
which, in Bellini's Romeo and Juliet, she would put the audience
into an ecstasy. The reason for this, he presumed, must lie in
the subject-matter. I at once promised him that I would supply
him with a libretto in which he would be able to introduce these
and similar melodies to the greatest advantage. To this he gladly
agreed, and I therefore set aside for versification, as a
suitable text for Reissiger, my Hohe Braut, founded on Konig's
romance, which I had once before submitted to Scribe. I promised
to bring Reissiger a page of verse for every piano rehearsal, and
this I faithfully did until the whole book was done. I was much
surprised to learn some time later that Reissiger had had a new
libretto written for him by an actor named Kriethe. This was
called the Wreck of the Medusa. I then learned that the wife of
the conductor, who was a suspicious woman, had been filled with
the greatest concern at my readiness to give up a libretto to her
husband. They both thought the book was good and full of striking
effects, but they suspected some sort of trap in the background,
to escape from which they must certainly exercise the greatest
caution. The result was that I regained possession of my libretto
and was able, later on, to help my old friend Kittl with it in
Prague; he set it to music of his own, and entitled it Die
Franzosen vor Nizza. I heard that it was frequently performed in
Prague with great success, though I never saw it myself; and I
was also told at the same time by a local critic that this text
was a proof of my real aptitude as a librettist, and that it was
a mistake for me to devote myself to composition. As regards my
Tannhauser, on the other hand, Laube used to declare it was a
misfortune that I had not got an experienced dramatist to supply
me with a decent text for my music.

For the time being, however, this work of versification had the
desired result, and Reissiger kept steadily to the study of
Rienzi. But what encouraged him even more than my verses was the
growing interest of the singers, and above all the genuine
enthusiasm of Tichatschek. This man, who had been so ready to
leave the delights of the theatre piano for a shooting party, now
looked upon the rehearsals of Rienzi as a genuine treat. He
always attended them with radiant eyes and boisterous good-
humour. I soon felt myself in a state of constant exhilaration:
favourite passages were greeted with acclamation by the singers
at every rehearsal, and a concerted number of the third finale,
which unfortunately had afterwards to be omitted owing to its
length, actually became on that occasion a source of profit to
me. For Tichatschek maintained that this B minor was so lovely
that something ought to be paid for it every time, and he put
down a silver penny, inviting the others to do the same, to which
they all responded merrily. From that day forward, whenever we
came to this passage at rehearsals, the cry was raised, 'Here
comes the silver penny part,' and Schroder-Devrient, as she took
out her purse, remarked that these rehearsals would ruin her.
This gratuity was conscientiously handed to me each time, and no
one suspected that these contributions, which were given as a
joke, were often a very welcome help towards defraying the cost
of our daily food. For Minna had returned from Toplitz, at the
beginning of August, accompanied by my mother.

We lived very frugally in chilly lodgings, hopefully awaiting the
tardy day of our deliverance. The months of August and September
passed, in preparation for my work, amid frequent disturbances
caused by the fluctuating and scanty repertoire of a German opera
house, and not until October did the combined rehearsals assume
such a character as to promise the certainty of a speedy
production. From the very beginning of the general rehearsals
with the orchestra we all shared the conviction that the opera
would, without doubt, be a great success. Finally, the full dress
rehearsals produced a perfectly intoxicating effect. When we
tried the first scene of the second act with the scenery
complete, and the messengers of peace entered, there was a
general outburst of emotion, and even Schroder-Devrient, who was
bitterly prejudiced against her part, as it was not the role of
the heroine, could only answer my questions in a voice stifled
with tears. I believe the whole theatrical body, down to its
humblest officials, loved me as though I were a real prodigy, and
I am probably not far wrong in saying that much of this arose
from sympathy and lively fellow-feeling for a young man, whose
exceptional difficulties were not unknown to them, and who now
suddenly stepped out of perfect obscurity into splendour. During
the interval at the full dress rehearsal, while other members had
dispersed to revive their jaded nerves with lunch, I remained
seated on a pile of boards on the stage, in order that no one
might realise that I was in the quandary of being unable to
obtain similar refreshment. An invalid Italian singer, who was
taking a small part in the opera, seemed to notice this, and
kindly brought me a glass of wine and a piece of bread. I was
sorry that I was obliged to deprive him of even his small part in
the course of the year, for its loss provoked such ill-treatment
from his wife, that by conjugal tyranny he was driven into the
ranks of my enemies. When, after my flight from Dresden in 1849,
I learned that I had been denounced to the police by this same
singer for supposed complicity in the rising which took place in
that town, I bethought me of this breakfast during the Rienzi
rehearsal, and felt I was being punished for my ingratitude, for
I knew I was guilty of having brought him into trouble with his

The frame of mind in which I looked forward to the first
performance of my work was a unique experience which I have never
felt either before or since. My kind sister Clara fully shared my
feelings. She had been living a wretched middle-class life at
Chemnitz, which, just about this time, she had left to come and
share my fate in Dresden. The poor woman, whose undoubted
artistic gifts had faded so early, was laboriously dragging out a
commonplace bourgeois existence as a wife and mother; but now,
under the influence of my growing success, she began joyously to
breathe a new life. She and I and the worthy chorus-master
Fischer used to spend our evenings with the Heine family, still
over potatoes and herrings, and often in a wonderfully elated
frame of mind. The evening before our first performance I was
able to crown our happiness by myself ladling out a bowl of
punch. With mingled tears and laughter we skipped about like
happy children, and then in sleep prepared ourselves for the
triumphant day to which we looked forward with such confidence..

Although on the morning of 20th October, 1842 I had resolved not
to disturb any of my singers by a visit, yet I happened to come
across one of them, a stiff Philistine called Risse, who was
playing a minor bass part in a dull but respectable way. The day
was rather cool, but wonderfully bright and sunshiny, after the
gloomy weather we had just been having. Without a word this
curious creature saluted me and then remained standing, as though
bewitched. He simply gazed into my face with wonder and rapture,
in order to find out, so he at last managed to tell me in strange
confusion, how a man looked who that very day was to face such an
exceptional fate. I smiled and reflected that it was indeed a day
of crisis, and promised him that I would soon drink a glass with
him, at the Stadt Hamburg inn, of the excellent wine he had
recommended to me with so much agitation.

No subsequent experience of mine can be compared with the
sensations which marked the day of the first production of
Rienzi. At all the first performances of my works in later days,
I have been so absorbed by an only too well-founded anxiety as to
their success, that I could neither enjoy the opera nor form any
real estimate of its reception by the public. As for my
subsequent experiences at the general rehearsal of Tristan und
Isolde, this took place under such exceptional circumstances, and
its effect upon me differed so fundamentally from that produced
by the first performance of Rienzi, that no comparison can
possibly be drawn between the two.

The immediate success of Rienzi was no doubt assured beforehand.
But the emphatic way in which the audience declared their
appreciation was thus far exceptional, that in cities like
Dresden the spectators are never in a position to decide
conclusively upon a work of importance on the first night, and
consequently assume an attitude of chilling restraint towards the
works of unknown authors. But this was, in the nature of things,
an exceptional case, for the numerous staff of the theatre and
the body of musicians had inundated the city beforehand with such
glowing reports of my opera, that the whole population awaited
the promised miracle in feverish expectation. I sat with Minna,
my sister Clara, and the Heine family in a pit-box, and when I
try to recall my condition during that evening, I can only
picture it with all the paraphernalia of a dream. Of real
pleasure or agitation I felt none at all: I seemed to stand quite
aloof from my work; whereas the sight of the thickly crowded
auditorium agitated me so much, that I was unable even to glance
at the body of the audience, whose presence merely affected me
like some natural phenomenon--something like a continuous
downpour of rain--from which I sought shelter in the farthest
corner of my box as under a protecting roof. I was quite
unconscious of applause, and when at the end of the acts I was
tempestuously called for, I had every time to be forcibly
reminded by Heine and driven on to the stage. On the other hand,
one great anxiety filled me with growing alarm: I noticed that
the first two acts had taken as long as the whole of Freischutz,
for instance. On account of its warlike calls to arms the third
act begins with an exceptional uproar, and when at its close the
clock pointed to ten, which meant that the performance had
already lasted full four hours, I became perfectly desperate. The
fact that after this act, also, I was again loudly called, I
regarded merely as a final courtesy on the part of the audience,
who wished to signify that they had had quite enough for one
evening, and would now leave the house in a body. As we had still
two acts before us, I thought it settled that we should not be
able to finish the piece, and apologised for my lack of wisdom in
not having previously effected the necessary curtailments. Now,
thanks to my folly, I found myself in the unheard-of predicament
of being unable to finish an opera, otherwise extremely well
received, simply because it was absurdly long. I could only
explain the undiminished zeal of the singers, and particularly of
Tichatschek, who seemed to grow lustier and cheerier the longer
it lasted, as an amiable trick to conceal from me the inevitable
catastrophe. But my astonishment at finding the audience still
there in full muster, even in the last act--towards midnight--
filled me with imbounded perplexity. I could no longer trust my
eyes or ears, and regarded the whole events of the evening as a
nightmare. It was past midnight when, for the last time, I had to
obey the thunderous calls of the audience, side by side with my
trusty singers.

My feeling of desperation at the unparalleled length of my opera
was augmented by the temper of my relatives, whom I saw for a
short time after the performance. Friedrich Brockhaus and his
family had come over with some friends from Leipzig, and had
invited us to the inn, hoping to celebrate an agreeable success
over a pleasant supper, and possibly to drink my health. But on
arriving, kitchen and cellar were closed, and every one was so
worn out that nothing was to be heard but outcries at the
unparalleled case of an opera lasting from six o'clock till past
twelve. No further remarks were exchanged, and we stole away
feeling quite stupefied.

About eight the next morning I put in an appearance at the
clerks' office, in order that in case there should be a second
performance I might arrange the necessary curtailment of the
parts. If, during the previous summer, I had contested every beat
with the faithful chorus-master Fischer, and proved them all to
be indispensable, I was now possessed by a blind rage for
striking out. There was not a single part of my score which
seemed any longer necessary--what the audience had been made to
swallow the previous evening now appeared but a chaos of sheer
impossibilities, each and all of which might be omitted without
the slightest damage or risk of being unintelligible. My one
thought now was how to reduce my convolution of monstrosities to
decent limits. By dint of unsparing and ruthless abbreviations
handed over to the copyist, I hoped to avert a catastrophe, for I
expected nothing less than that the general manager, together
with the city and the theatre, would that very day give me to
understand that such a thing as the performance of my Last of the
Tribunes might perhaps be permitted once as a curiosity, but not
oftener. All day long, therefore, I carefully avoided going near
the theatre, so as to give time for my heroic abbreviations to do
their salutary work, and for news of them to spread through the
city. But at midday I looked in again upon the copyists, to
assure myself that all had been duly performed as I had ordered.
I then learned that Tichatschek had also been there, and, after
inspecting the omissions that I had arranged, had forbidden their
being carried out. Fischer, the chorus-master, also wished to
speak to me about them: work was suspended, and I foresaw great
confusion. I could not understand what it all meant, and feared
mischief if the arduous task were delayed. At length, towards
evening, I sought out Tichatschek at the theatre. Without giving
him a chance to speak, I brusquely asked him why he had
interrupted the copyists' work. In a half-choked voice he curtly
and defiantly rejoined, 'I will have none of my part cut out--it
is too heavenly.' I stared at him blankly, and then felt as
though I had been suddenly bewitched: such an unheard-of
testimony to my success could not but shake me out of my strange
anxiety. Others joined him, Fischer radiant with delight and
bubbling with laughter. Every one spoke of the enthusiastic
emotion which thrilled the whole city. Next came a letter of
thanks from the Commissioner acknowledging my splendid work.
Nothing now remained for me but to embrace Tichatschek and
Fischer, and go on my way to inform Minna and Clara how matters

After a few days' rest for the actors, the second performance
took place on 26th October, but with various curtailments, for
which I had great difficulty in obtaining Tichatschek's consent.
Although it was still of much more than average length, I heard
no particular complaints, and at last adopted Tichatschek's view
that, if he could stand it, so could the audience. For six
performances therefore, all of which continued to receive a
similar avalanche of applause, I let the matter run its course.

My opera, however, had also excited interest among the elder
princesses of the royal family. They thought its exhausting
length a drawback, but were nevertheless unwilling to miss any of
it. Luttichau consequently proposed that I should give the piece
at full length, but half of it at a time on two successive
evenings. This suited me very well, and after an interval of a
few weeks we announced Rienzi's Greatness for the first day, and
His Fall for the second. The first evening we gave two acts, and
on the second three, and for the latter I composed a special
introductory prelude. This met with the entire approval of our
august patrons, and especially of the two eldest, Princesses
Amalie and Augusta. The public, on the contrary, simply regarded
this in the light of now being asked to pay two entrance fees for
one opera, and pronounced the new arrangement a decided fraud.
Its annoyance at the change was so great that it actually
threatened to be fatal to the attendance, and after three
performances of the divided Rienzi the management was obliged to
go back to the old arrangement, which I willingly made possible
by introducing my cuttings again.

From this time forward the piece used to fill the house to
overflowing as often as it could be presented, and the permanence
of its success became still more obvious when I began to realise
the envy it drew upon me from many different quarters. My first
experience of this was truly painful, and came from the hands of
the poet, Julius Mosen, on the very day after the first
performance. When I first reached Dresden in the summer I had
sought him out, and, having a really high opinion of his talent,
our intercourse soon became more intimate, and was the means of
giving me much pleasure and instruction. He had shown me a volume
of his plays, which on the whole appealed to me exceptionally.
Among these was a tragedy, Cola Rienzi, dealing with the same
subject as my opera, and in a manner partly new to me, and which
I thought effective. With reference to this poem, I had begged
him to take no notice of my libretto, as in the quality of its
poetry it could not possibly bear comparison with his own; and it
cost him little sacrifice to grant the request. It happened that
just before the first performance of my Rienzi, he had produced
in Dresden Bernhard von Weimar, one of his least happy pieces,
the result of which had brought him little pleasure. Dramatically
it was a thing with no life in it, aiming only at political
harangue, and had shared the inevitable fate of all such
aberrations. He had therefore awaited the appearance of my Rienzi
with some vexation, and confessed to me his bitter chagrin at not
being able to procure the acceptance of his tragedy of the same
name in Dresden. This, he presumed, arose from its somewhat
pronounced political tendency, which, certainly in a spoken play
on a similar subject, would be more noticeable than in an opera,
where from the very start no one pays any heed to the words. I
had genially confirmed him in this depreciation of the subject
matter in opera; and was therefore the more startled when, on
finding him at my sister Louisa's the day after the first
performance, he straightway overwhelmed me with a scornful
outburst of irritation at my success. But he found in me a
strange sense of the essential unreality in opera of such a
subject as that which I had just illustrated with so much success
in Rienzi, so that, oppressed by a secret sense of shame, I had
no serious rejoinder to offer to his candidly poisonous abuse. My
line of defence was not yet sufficiently clear in my own mind to
be available offhand, nor was it yet backed by so obvious a
product of my own peculiar genius that I could venture to quote
it. Moreover, my first impulse was only one of pity for the
unlucky playwright, which I felt all the more constrained to
express, because his burst of fury gave me the inward
satisfaction of knowing that he recognised my great success, of
which I was not yet quite clear myself.

But this first performance of Rienzi did far more than this. It
gave occasion for controversy, and made an ever-widening breach
between myself and the newspaper critics. Herr Karl Bank, who for
some time had been the chief musical critic in Dresden, had been
known to me before at Magdeburg, where he once visited me and
listened with delight to my playing of several fairly long
passages from my Liebesverbot. When we met again in Dresden, this
man could not forgive me for having been unable to procure him
tickets for the first performance of Rienzi. The same thing
happened with a certain Herr Julius Schladebach, who likewise
settled in Dresden about that time as a critic. Though I was
always anxious to be gracious to everybody, yet I felt just then
an invincible repugnance for showing special deference to any man
because he was a critic. As time went on, I carried this rule to
the point of almost systematic rudeness, and was consequently all
my life through the victim of unprecedented persecution from the
press. As yet, however, this ill-will had not become pronounced,
for at that time journalism had not begun to give itself airs in
Dresden. There were so few contributions sent from there to the
outside press that our artistic doings excited very little notice
elsewhere, a fact which was certainly not without its
disadvantages for me. Thus for the present the unpleasant side of
my success scarcely affected me at all, and for a brief space I
felt myself, for the first and only time in my life, so
pleasantly borne along on the breath of general good-will, that
all my former troubles seemed amply requited.

For further and quite unexpected fruits of my success now
appeared with astonishing rapidity, though not so much in the
form of material profit, which for the present resolved itself
into nine hundred marks, paid me by the General Board as an
exceptional fee instead of the usual twenty golden louis. Nor did
I dare to cherish the hope of selling my work advantageously to a
publisher, until it had been performed in some other important
towns. But fate willed it, that by the sudden death of Rastrelli,
royal director of music, which occurred shortly after the first
production of Rienzi, an office should unexpectedly become
vacant, for the filling of which all eyes at once turned to me.

While the negotiations over this matter were slowly proceeding,
the General Board gave proof in another direction of an almost
passionate interest in my talents. They insisted that the first
performance of the Fliegender Hollander should on no account be
conceded to the Berlin opera, but reserved as an honour for
Dresden. As the Berlin authorities raised no obstacle, I very
gladly handed over my latest work also to the Dresden theatre. If
in this I had to dispense with Tichatschek's assistance, as there
was no leading tenor part in the play, I could count all the more
surely on the helpful co-operation of Schroder-Devrient, to whom
a worthier task was assigned in the leading female part than that
which she had had in Rienzi. I was glad to be able thus to rely
entirely upon her, as she had grown strangely out of humour with
me, owing to her scanty share in the success of Rienzi. The
completeness of my faith in her I proved with an exaggeration by
no means advantageous to my own work, by simply forcing the
leading male part on Wachter, a once capable, but now somewhat
delicate baritone. He was in every respect wholly unsuited to the
task, and only accepted it with unfeigned hesitation. On
submitting my play to my adored prima donna, I was much relieved
to find that its poetry made a special appeal to her. Thanks to
the genuine personal interest awakened in me under very peculiar
circumstances by the character and fate of this exceptional
woman, our study of the part of Senta, which often brought us
into close contact, became one of the most thrilling and
momentously instructive periods of my life.

It is true that the great actress, especially when under the
influence of her famous mother, Sophie Schroder, who was just
then with her on a visit, showed undisguised vexation at my
having composed so brilliant a work as Rienzi for Dresden without
having specifically reserved the principal part for her. Yet the
magnanimity of her disposition triumphed even over this selfish
impulse: she loudly proclaimed me 'a genius,' and honoured me
with that special confidence which, she said, none but a genius
should enjoy. But when she invited me to become both the
accomplice and adviser in her really dreadful love affairs, this
confidence certainly began to have its risky side; nevertheless
there were at first occasions on which she openly proclaimed
herself before all the world as my friend, making most flattering
distinctions in my favour.

First of all I had to accompany her on a trip to Leipzig, where
she was giving a concert for her mother's benefit, which she
thought to make particularly attractive by including in its
programme two selections from Rienzi--the aria of Adriano and the
hero's prayer (the latter sung by Tichatschek), and both under my
personal conductorship. Mendelssohn, who was also on very
friendly terms with her, had been enticed to this concert too,
and produced his overture to Ruy Blas, then quite new. It was
during the two busy days spent on this occasion in Leipzig that I
first came into close contact with him, all my previous knowledge
of him having been limited to a few rare and altogether
profitless visits. At the house of my brother-in-law, Fritz
Brockhaus, he and Devrient gave us a good deal of music, he
playing her accompaniment to a number of Schubert's songs. I here
became conscious of the peculiar unrest and excitement with which
this master of music, who, though still young, had already
reached the zenith of his fame and life's work, observed or
rather watched me. I could see clearly that he thought but little
of a success in opera, and that merely in Dresden. Doubtless I
seemed in his eyes one of a class of musicians to whom he
attached no value, and with whom he proposed to have no
intercourse. Nevertheless my success had certain characteristic
features, which gave it a more or less alarming aspect.
Mendelssohn's most ardent desire for a long time past had been to
write a successful opera, and it was possible he now felt annoyed
that, before he had succeeded in doing so, a triumph of this
nature should suddenly be thrust into his face with blunt
brutality, and based upon a style of music which he might feel
justified in regarding as poor. He probably found it no less
exasperating that Devrient, whose gifts he acknowledged, and who
was his own devoted admirer, should now so openly and loudly
sound my praises. These thoughts were dimly shaping themselves in
my mind, when Mendelssohn, by a very remarkable statement, drove
me, almost with violence, to adopt this interpretation. On our
way home together, after the joint concert rehearsal, I was
talking very warmly on the subject of music. Although by no means
a talkative man, he suddenly interrupted me with curiously hasty
excitement by the assertion that music had but one great fault,
namely, that more than any other art it stimulated not only our
good, but also our evil qualities, such, for instance, as
jealousy. I blushed with shame to have to apply this speech to
his own feelings towards me; for I was profoundly conscious of my
innocence of ever having dreamed, even in the remotest degree, of
placing my own talents or performances as a musician in
comparison with his. Yet, strange to say, at this very concert he
showed himself in a light by no means calculated to place him
beyond all possibility of comparison with myself. A rendering of
his Hebrides Overture would have placed him so immeasurably above
my two operatic airs, that all shyness at having to stand beside
him would have been spared me, as the gulf between our two
productions was impassable. But in his choice of the Ruy Blas
Overture he appears to have been prompted by a desire to place
himself on this occasion so close to the operatic style that its
effectiveness might be reflected upon his own work. The overture
was evidently calculated for a Parisian audience, and the
astonishment Mendelssohn caused by appearing in such a connection
was shown by Robert Schumann in his own ungainly fashion at its
close. Approaching the musician in the orchestra, he blandly, and
with a genial smile, expressed his admiration of the 'brilliant
orchestral piece' just played..

But in the interests of veracity let me not forget that neither
he nor I scored the real success of that evening. We were both
wholly eclipsed by the tremendous effect produced by the grey-
haired Sophie Schroder in a recitation of Burger's Lenore. While
the daughter had been taunted in the newspapers with unfairly
employing all sorts of musical attractions to cozen a benefit
concert out of the music lovers of Leipzig for a mother who never
had anything to do with that art, we, who were there as her
musical aiders and abettors, had to stand like so many idle
conjurers, while this aged and almost toothless dame declaimed
Burger's poem with truly terrifying beauty and grandeur. This
episode, like so much else that I saw during these few days, gave
me abundant food for thought and meditation.

A second excursion, also undertaken with Devrient, took me in the
December of that year to Berlin, where the singer had been
invited to appear at a grand state concert. I for my part wanted
an interview with Director Kustner about the Fliegender
Hollander. Although I arrived at no definite result regarding my
own personal business, this short visit to Berlin was memorable
for my meeting with Franz Liszt, which afterwards proved of great
importance. It took place under singular circumstances, which
placed both him and me in a situation of peculiar embarrassment,
brought about in the most wanton fashion by Devrient's
exasperating caprice.

I had already told my patroness the story of my earlier meeting
with Liszt. During that fateful second winter of my stay in
Paris, when I had at last been driven to be grateful for
Schlesinger's hack-work, I one day received word from Laube, who
always bore me in mind, that F. Liszt was coming to Paris. He had
mentioned and recommended me to him when he was in Germany, and
advised me to lose no time in looking him up, as he was
'generous,' and would certainly find means of helping me. As soon
as I heard that he had really arrived, I presented myself at the
hotel to see him. It was early in the morning. On my entrance I
found several strange gentlemen waiting in the drawing-room,
where, after some time, we were joined by Liszt himself, pleasant
and affable, and wearing his indoor coat. The conversation was
carried on in French, and turned upon his experiences during his
last professional journey in Hungary. As I was unable to take
part, on account of the language, I listened for some time,
feeling heartily bored, until at last he asked me pleasantly what
he could do for me. He seemed unable to recall Laube's
recommendation, and all the answer I could give was that I
desired to make his acquaintance. To this he had evidently no
objection, and informed me he would take care to have a ticket
sent me for his great matinee, which was to take place shortly.
My sole attempt to introduce an artistic theme of conversation
was a question as to whether he knew Lowe's Erlkonig as well as
Schubert's. His reply in the negative frustrated this somewhat
awkward attempt, and I ended my visit by giving him my address.
Thither his secretary, Belloni, presently sent me, with a few
polite words, a card of admission to a concert to be given
entirely by the master himself in the Salle Erard. I duly wended
my way to the overcrowded hall, and beheld the platform on which
the grand piano stood, closely beleaguered by the cream of
Parisian female society, and witnessed their enthusiastic
ovations of this virtuoso, who was at that time the wonder of the
world. Moreover, I heard several of his most brilliant pieces,
such as 'Variations on Robert le Diable,' but carried away with
me no real impression beyond that of being stunned. This took
place just at the time when I abandoned a path which had been
contrary to my truer nature, and had led me astray, and on which
I now emphatically turned my back in silent bitterness. I was
therefore in no fitting mood for a just appreciation of this
prodigy, who at that time was shining in the blazing light of
day, but from whom I had turned my face to the night. I went to
see Liszt no more.

As already mentioned, I had given Devrient a bare outline of this
story, but she had noted it with particular attention, for I
happened to have touched her weak point of professional jealousy.
As Liszt had also been commanded by the King of Prussia to appear
at the grand state concert at Berlin, it so happened that the
first time they met Liszt questioned her with great interest
about the success of Rienzi. She thereupon observed that the
composer of that opera was an altogether unknown man, and
proceeded with curious malice to taunt him with his apparent lack
of penetration, as proved by the fact that the said composer, who
now so keenly excited his interest, was the very same poor
musician whom he had lately 'turned away so contemptuously' in
Paris. All this she told me with an air of triumph, which
distressed me very much, and I at once set to work to correct the
false impression conveyed by my former account. As we were still
debating this point in her room, we were startled by hearing from
the next the famous bass part in the 'Revenge' air from Donna
Anna, rapidly executed in octaves on the piano. 'That's Liszt
himself,' she cried. Liszt then entered the room to fetch her for
the rehearsal. To my great embarrassment she introduced me to him
with malicious delight as the composer of Rienzi, the man whose
acquaintance he now wished to make after having previously shown
him the door in his glorious Paris. My solemn asseverations that
my patroness--no doubt only in fun--was deliberately distorting
my account of my former visit to him, apparently pacified him so
far as I was concerned, and, on the other hand, he had no doubt
already formed his own opinion of the impulsive singer. He
certainly regretted that he could not remember my visit in Paris,
but it nevertheless shocked and alarmed him to learn that any one
should have had reason to complain of such treatment at his
hands. The hearty sincerity of Listz's simple words to me about
this misunderstanding, as contrasted with the strangely
passionate raillery of the incorrigible lady, made a most
pleasing and captivating impression upon me. The whole bearing of
the man, and the way in which he tried to ward off the pitiless
scorn of her attacks, was something new to me, and gave me a deep
insight into his character, so firm in its amiability and
boundless good-nature. Finally, she teased him about the Doctor's
degree which had just been conferred on him by the University of
Konigsberg, and pretended to mistake him for a chemist. At last
he stretched himself out flat on the floor, and implored her
mercy, declaring himself quite defenceless against the storm of
her invective. Then turning to me with a hearty assurance that he
would make it his business to hear Rienzi, and would in any case
endeavour to give me a better opinion of himself than his evil
star had hitherto permitted, we parted for that occasion.

The almost naive simplicity and naturalness of his every phrase
and word, and particularly his emphatic manner, left a most
profound impression upon me. No one could fail to be equally
affected by these qualities, and I now realised for the first
time the almost magic power exerted by Liszt over all who came in
close contact with him, and saw how erroneous had been my former
opinion as to its cause.

These two excursions to Leipzig and Berlin found but brief
interruptions of the period devoted at home to our study of the
Fliegender Hollander. It was therefore, of paramount importance
to me to maintain Schroder-Devrient's keen interest in her part,
since, in view of the weakness of the rest of the cast, I was
convinced that it was from her alone I could expect any adequate
interpretation of the spirit of my work.

The part of Senta was essentially suited to her, and there were
just at that moment peculiar circumstances in her life which
brought her naturally emotional temperament to a high pitch of
tension. I was amazed when she confided to me that she was on the
point of breaking off a regular liaison of many years' standing,
to form, in passionate haste, another much less desirable one.
The forsaken lover, who was tenderly devoted to her, was a young
lieutenant in the Royal Guards, and the son of Muller, the ex-
Minister of Education; her new choice, whose acquaintance she had
formed on a recent visit to Berlin, was Herr von Munchhausen. He
was a tall, slim young man, and her predilection for him was
easily explained when I became more closely acquainted with her
love affairs. It seemed to me that the bestowal of her confidence
on me in this matter arose from her guilty conscience; she was
aware that Muller, whom I liked on account of his excellent
disposition, had loved her with the earnestness of a first love,
and also that she was now betraying him in the most faithless way
on a trivial pretext. She must have known that her new lover was
entirely unworthy of her, and that his intentions were frivolous
and selfish. She knew, too, that no one, and certainly none of
her older friends who knew her best, would approve of her
behaviour. She told me candidly that she had felt impelled to
confide in me because I was a genius, and would understand the
demands of her temperament. I hardly knew what to think. I was
repelled alike by her passion and the circumstances attending it;
but to my astonishment I had to confess that the infatuation, so
repulsive to me, held this strange woman in so powerful a grasp
that I could not refuse her a certain amount of pity, nay, even
real sympathy.

She was pale and distraught, ate hardly anything, and her
faculties were subjected to a strain so extraordinary that I
thought she would not escape a serious, perhaps a fatal illness.
Sleep had long since deserted her, and whenever I brought her my
unlucky Fliegender Hollander, her looks so alarmed me that the
proposed rehearsal was the last thing I thought of. But in this
matter she insisted; she made me sit down at the piano, and then
plunged into the study of her role as if it were a matter of life
and death. She found the actual learning of the part very
difficult, and it was only by repeated and persevering rehearsal
that she mastered her task. She would sing for hours at a time
with such passion that I often sprang up in terror and begged her
to spare herself; then she would point smiling to her chest, and
expand the muscles of her still magnificent person, to assure me
that she was doing herself no harm. Her voice really acquired at
that time a youthful freshness and power of endurance. I had to
confess that which often astonished me: this infatuation for an
insipid nobody was very much to the advantage of my Senta. Her
courage under this intense strain was so great that, as time
pressed, she consented to have the general rehearsal on the very
day of the first performance, and a delay which would have been
greatly to my disadvantage was thus avoided.

The performance took place on 2nd January, in the year 1843. Its
result was extremely instructive to me, and led to the turning-
point of my career. The, ill-success of the performance taught me
how much care and forethought were essential to secure the
adequate dramatic interpretation of my latest works. I realised
that I had more or less believed that my score would explain
itself, and that my singers would arrive at the right
interpretation of their own accord. My good old friend Wachter,
who at the time of Henriette Sontag's first success was a
favourite 'Barber of Seville,' had from the first discreetly
thought otherwise. Unfortunately, even Schroder-Devrient only saw
when the rehearsals were too far advanced how utterly incapable
Wachter was of realising the horror and supreme suffering of my
Mariner. His distressing corpulence, his broad fat face, the
extraordinary movements of his arms and legs, which he managed to
make look like mere stumps, drove my passionate Senta to despair.
At one rehearsal, when in the great scene in Act ii. she comes to
him in the guise of a guardian angel to bring the message of
salvation, she broke off to whisper despairingly in my ear, 'How
can I say it when I look into those beady eyes? Good God, Wagner,
what a muddle you have made!' I consoled her as well as I could,
and secretly placed my dependence on Herr von Munchhausen, who
promised faithfully to sit that evening in the front row of the
stalls, so that Devrient's eyes must fall on him. And the
magnificent performance of my great artiste, although she stood
horribly alone on the stage, did succeed in rousing enthusiasm in
the second act. The first act offered the audience nothing but a
dull conversation between Herr Wachter and that Herr Risse who
had invited me to an excellent glass of wine on the first night
of Rienzi, and in the third the loudest raging of the orchestra
did not rouse the sea from its dead calm nor the phantom ship in
its cautious rocking. The audience fell to wondering how I could
have produced this crude, meagre, and gloomy work after Rienzi,
in every act of which incident abounded, and Tichatschek shone in
an endless variety of costumes.

As Schroder-Devrient soon left Dresden for a considerable time,
the Fliegender Hollander saw only four performances, at which the
diminishing audiences made it plain that I had not pleased
Dresden taste with it. The management was compelled to revive
Rienzi in order to maintain my prestige; and the triumph of this
opera compared with the failure of the Dutchman gave me food for
reflection. I had to admit, with some misgivings, that the
success of my Rienzi was not entirely due to the cast and
staging, although I was fully alive to the defects from which the
Fliegender Hollander suffered in this respect. Although Wachter
was far from realising my conception of the Fliegender Hollander
I could not conceal from myself the fact that Tichatschek was
quite as far removed from the ideal Rienzi. His abominable errors
and deficiencies in his presentation of the part had never
escaped me; he had never been able to lay aside his brilliant and
heroic leading-tenor manners in order to render that gloomy
demonic strain in Rienzi's temperament on which I had laid
unmistakable stress at the critical points of the drama. In the
fourth act, after the pronouncement of the curse, he fell on his
knees in the most melancholy fashion and abandoned himself to
bewailing his fate in piteous tones. When I suggested to him that
Rienzi, though inwardly despairing, must take up an attitude of
statuesque firmness before the world, he pointed out to me the
great popularity which the end of this very act had won as
interpreted by himself, with an intimation that he intended
making no change in it.

And when I considered the real causes of the success of Rienzi, I
found that it rested on the brilliant and extraordinarily fresh
voice of the soaring, happy singer, in the refreshing effect of
the chorus and the gay movement and colouring on the stage. I
received a still more convincing proof of this when we divided
the opera into two, and found that the second part, which was the
more important from both the dramatic and the musical point of
view, was noticeably less well attended than the first, for the
very obvious reason, as I thought, that the ballet occurred in
the first part. My brother Julius, who had come over from Leipzig
for one of the performances of Rienzi, gave me a still more naive
testimony as to the real point of interest in the opera. I was
sitting with him in an open box, in full sight of the audience,
and had therefore begged him to desist from giving any applause,
even if directed only to the efforts of the singers; he
restrained himself all through the evening, but his enthusiasm at
a certain figure of the ballet was too much for him, and he
clapped loudly, to the great amusement of the audience, telling
me that he could not hold himself in any longer. Curiously
enough, this same ballet secured for Rienzi, which was otherwise
received with indifference, the enduring preference of the
present King of Prussia, [FOOTNOTE: William the First.]who many
years afterwards ordered the revival of this opera, although it
had utterly failed in arousing public interest by its merits as a

I found, when I had to be present later on at a representation of
the same opera at Darmstadt, that while wholesale cuts had to be
made in its best parts, it had been found necessary to expand the
ballets by additions and repetitions. This ballet music, which I
had put together with contemptuous haste at Riga in a few days
without any inspiration, seemed to me, moreover, so strikingly
weak that I was thoroughly ashamed of it even in those days at
Dresden, when I had found myself compelled to suppress its best
feature, the tragic pantomime. Further, the resources of the
ballet in Dresden did not even admit of the execution of my stage
directions for the combat in the arena, nor for the very
significant round dances, both admirably carried out at a later
date in Berlin. I had to be content with the humiliating
substitution of a long, foolish step-dance by two insignificant
dancers, which was ended by a company of soldiers marching on,
bearing their shields on high so as to form a roof and remind the
audience of the Roman testudo; then the ballet-master with his
assistant, in flesh-coloured tights, leaped on to the shields and
turned somersaults, a proceeding which they thought was
reminiscent of the gladiatorial games. It was at this point that
the house was always moved to resounding applause, and I had to
own that this moment marked the climax of my success.

I thus had my doubts as to the intrinsic divergence between my
inner aims and my outward success; at the same time a decisive
and fatal change in my fortunes was brought about by my
acceptance of the conductorship at Dresden, under circumstances
as perplexing in their way as those preceding my marriage. I had
met the negotiations which led up to this appointment with a
hesitation and a coolness by no means affected. I felt nothing
but scorn for theatrical life; a scorn that was by no means
lessened by a closer acquaintance with the apparently
distinguished ruling body of a court theatre, the splendours of
which only conceal, with arrogant ignorance, the humiliating
conditions appertaining to it and to the modern theatre in
general. I saw every noble impulse stifled in those occupied with
theatrical matters, and a combination of the vainest and most
frivolous interests maintained by a ridiculously rigid and
bureaucratic system; I was now fully convinced that the necessity
of handling the business of the theatre would be the most
distasteful thing I could imagine. Now that, through Rastrelli's
death, the temptation to be false to my inner conviction came to
me in Dresden, I explained to my old and trusted friends that I
did not think I should accept the vacant post.

But everything calculated to shake human resolution combined
against this decision. The prospect of securing the means of
livelihood through a permanent position with a fixed salary was
an irresistible attraction. I combated the temptation by
reminding myself of my success as an operatic composer, which
might reasonably be expected to bring in enough to supply my
moderate requirements in a lodging of two rooms, where I could
proceed undisturbed with fresh compositions. I was told in answer
to this that my work itself would be better served by a fixed
position without arduous duties, as for a whole year since the
completion of the Fliegender Hollander I had not, under existing
circumstances, found any leisure at all for composition. I still
remained convinced that Rastrelli's post of musical director, in
subordination to the conductor, was unworthy of me, and I
declined to entertain the proposal, thus leaving the management
to look elsewhere for some one to fill the vacancy.

There was therefore no further question of this particular post,
but I was then informed that the death of Morlacchi had left
vacant a court conductorship, and it was thought that the King
would be willing to offer me the post. My wife was very much
excited at this prospect, for in Germany the greatest value is
laid on these court appointments, which are tenable for life, and
the dazzling respectability pertaining to them is held out to
German musicians as the acme of earthly happiness. The offer
opened up for us in many directions the prospect of friendly
relations in a society which had hitherto been outside our
experience. Domestic comfort and social prestige were very
alluring to the homeless wanderers who, in bygone days of misery,
had often longed for the comfort and security of an assured and
permanent position such as was now open to them under the august
protection of the court. The influence of Caroline von Weber did
much in the long-run to weaken my opposition. I was often at her
house, and took great pleasure in her society, which brought back
to my mind very vividly the personality of my still dearly
beloved master. She begged me with really touching tenderness not
to withstand this obvious command of fate, and asserted her right
to ask me to settle in Dresden, to fill the place left sadly
empty by her husband's death. 'Just think,' she said, 'how can I
look Weber in the face again when I join him if I have to tell
him that the work for which he made such devoted sacrifices in
Dresden is neglected; just imagine my feelings when I see that
indolent Reissiger stand in my noble Weber's place, and when I
hear his operas produced more mechanically every year. If you
loved Weber, you owe it to his memory to step into his place and
to continue his work.' As an experienced woman of the world she
also pointed out energetically and prudently the practical side
of the matter, impressing on me the duty of thinking of my wife,
who would, in case of my death, be sufficiently provided for if I
accepted the post.

The promptings of affection, prudence and good sense, however,
had less weight with me than the enthusiastic conviction, never
at any period of my life entirely destroyed, that wherever fate
led me, whether to Dresden or elsewhere, I should find the
opportunity which would convert my dreams into reality through
currents set in motion by some change in the everyday order of
events. All that was needed for this was the advent of an ardent
and aspiring soul who, with good luck to back him, might make up
for lost time, and by his ennobling influence achieve the
deliverance of art from her shameful bonds. The wonderful and
rapid change which had taken place in my fortunes could not fail
to encourage such a hope, and I was seduced on perceiving the
marked alteration that had taken place in the whole attitude of
Luttichau, the general director, towards me. This strange
individual showed me a kindliness of which no one would hitherto
have thought him capable, and that he was prompted by a genuine
feeling of personal benevolence towards me I could not help being
absolutely convinced, even at the time of my subsequent ceaseless
differences with him.

Nevertheless, the decision came as a kind of surprise. On 2nd
February 1843 I was very politely invited to the director's
office, and there met the general staff of the royal orchestra,
in whose presence Luttichau, through the medium of my never-to-
be-forgotten friend Winkler, solemnly read out to me a royal
rescript appointing me forthwith conductor to his Majesty, with a
life salary of four thousand five hundred marks a year. Luttichau
followed the reading of this document by a more or less
ceremonious speech, in which he assumed that I should gratefully
accept the King's favour. At this polite ceremony it did not
escape my notice that all possibility of future negotiations over
the figure of the salary was cut off; on the other hand, a
substantial exemption in my favour, the omission of the
condition, enforced even on Weber in his time, of serving a
year's probation under the title of mere musical director, was
calculated to secure my unconditional acceptance. My new
colleagues congratulated me, and Luttichau accompanied me with
the politest phrases to my own door, where I fell into the arms
of my poor wife, who was giddy with delight. Therefore I fully
realised that I must put the best face I could on the matter, and
unless I wished to give unheard-of offence, I must even
congratulate myself on my appointment as royal conductor.

A few days after taking the oath as a servant of the King in
solemn session, and undergoing the ceremony of presentation to
the assembled orchestra by means of an enthusiastic speech from
the general director, I was summoned to an audience with his
Majesty. When I saw the features of the kind, courteous, and
homely monarch, I involuntarily thought of my youthful attempt at
a political overture on the theme of Friedrich und Freiheit. Our
somewhat embarrassed conversation brightened with the King's
expression of his satisfaction with those two of my operas which
had been performed in Dresden. He expressed with polite
hesitation his feeling that if my operas left anything to be
desired, it was a clearer definition of the various characters in
my musical dramas. He thought the interest in the persons was
overpowered by the elemental forces figuring beside them--in
Hienzi the mob, in the Fliegender Hollander the sea. I thought I
understood his meaning perfectly, and this proof of his sincere
sympathy and original judgment pleased me very much. He also made
his excuses in advance for a possible rare attendance at my
operas on his part, his sole reason for this being that he had a
peculiar aversion from theatre-going, as the result of one of the
rules of his early training, under which he and his brother John,
who had acquired a similar aversion, were for a long time
compelled regularly to attend the theatre, when he, to tell the
truth, would often have preferred to be left alone to follow his
own pursuits independent of etiquette.

As a characteristic instance of the courtier spirit, I afterwards
learned that Luttichau, who had had to wait for me in the
anteroom during this audience, had been very much put out by its
long duration. In the whole course of my life I was only admitted
twice more to personal intercourse and speech with the good King.
The first occasion was when I presented him with the dedication
copy of the pianoforte score of my Rienzi; and the second was
after my very successful arrangement and performance of the
Iphigenia in Aulis, by Gluck, of whose operas he was particularly
fond, when he stopped me in the public promenade and
congratulated me on my work.

That first audience with the King marked the zenith of my hastily
adopted career at Dresden; thenceforward anxiety reasserted
itself in manifold ways. I very quickly realised the difficulties
of my material situation, since it soon became evident that the
advantage won by new exertions and my present appointment bore no
proportion to the heavy sacrifices and obligations which I
incurred as soon as I entered on an independent career. The young
musical director of Riga, long since forgotten, suddenly
reappeared in an astonishing reincarnation as royal conductor to
the King of Saxony. The first-fruits of the universal estimate of
my good fortune took the shape of pressing creditors and threats
of prosecution; next followed demands from the Konigsberg
tradesmen, from whom I had escaped from Riga by means of that
horribly wretched and miserable flight. I also heard from people
in the most distant parts, who thought they had some claim on me,
dating even from my student, nay, my school days, until at last I
cried out in my astonishment that I expected to receive a bill
next from the nurse who had suckled me. All this did not amount
to any very large sum, and I merely mention it because of the
ill-natured rumours which, I learned years later, had been spread
abroad about the extent of my debts at that time. Out of three
thousand marks, borrowed at interest from Schroder-Devrient, I
not only paid these debts, but also fully compensated the
sacrifices which Kietz had made on my behalf, without ever
expecting any return, in the days of my poverty in Paris. I was,
moreover, able to be of practical use to him. But where was I to
find even this sum, as my distress had hitherto been so great
that I was obliged to urge Schroder-Devrient to hurry on the
rehearsals of the Fliegender Hollander by pointing out to her the
enormous importance to me of the fee for the performance? I had
no allowance for the expenses of my establishment in Dresden,
though it had to be suitable for my position as royal conductor,
nor even for the purchase of a ridiculous and expensive court
uniform, so that there would have been no possibility of my
making a start at all, as I had no private means, unless I
borrowed money at interest.

But no one who knew of the extraordinary success of Rienzi at
Dresden could help believing in an immediate and remunerative
rage for my operas on the German stage. My own relatives, even
the prudent Ottilie, were so convinced of it that they thought I
might safely count on at least doubling my salary by the receipts
from my operas. At the very beginning the prospects did indeed
seem bright; the score of my Fliegender Hollander was ordered by
the Royal Theatre at Cassel and by the Riga theatre, which I had
known so well in the old days, because they were anxious to
perform something of mine at an early date, and had heard that
this opera was on a smaller scale, and made smaller demands on
the stage management, than Rienzi. In May, 1843 I heard good
reports of the success of the performances from both those
places. But this was all for the time being, and a whole year
went by without the smallest inquiry for any of my scores. An
attempt was made to secure me some benefit by the publication of
the pianoforte score of the Fliegender Hollander, as I wanted to
reserve Rienzi, after the successes it had gained, as useful
capital for a more favourable opportunity; but the plan was
spoilt by the opposition of Messrs. Hartel of Leipzig, who,
although ready enough to publish my opera, would only do so on
the condition that I abstained from asking any payment for it.

So I had, for the present, to content myself with the moral
satisfaction of my successes, of which my unmistakable popularity
with the Dresden public, and the respect and attention paid to
me, formed part. But even in this respect my Utopian dreams were
destined to be disturbed. I think that my appearance at Dresden
marked the beginning of a new era in journalism and criticism,
which found food for its hitherto but slightly developed vitality
in its vexation at my success. The two gentlemen I have already
mentioned, C. Bank and J. Schladebach, had, as I now know, first
taken up their regular abode in Dresden at that time; I know that
when difficulties were raised about the permanence of Bank's
appointment, they were waived, owing to the testimonials and
recommendation of my present colleague Reissiger. The success of
my Rienzi had been the source of great annoyance to these
gentlemen, who were now established as musical critics to the
Dresden press, because I made no effort to win their favour; they
were not ill-pleased, therefore, to find an opportunity of
pouring out the vitriol of their hatred over the universally
popular young musician who had won the sympathy of the kindly
public, partly on account of the poverty and ill-luck which had
hitherto been his lot. The need for any kind of human
consideration had suddenly vanished with my 'unheard-of'
appointment to the royal conductorship. Now 'all was well with
me,' 'too well,' in fact; and envy found its congenial food; this
provided a perfectly clear and comprehensible point of attack;
and soon there spread through the German press, in the columns
given to Dresden news, an estimate of me which has never
fundamentally changed, except in one point, to this day. This
single modification, which was purely temporary and confined to
papers of one political colour, occurred on my first settlement
as a political refugee in Switzerland, but lasted only until,
through Liszt's exertions, my operas began to be produced all
over Germany, in spite of my exile. The orders from two theatres,
immediately after the Dresden performance, for one of my scores,
were merely due to the fact that up to that time the activity of
my journalistic critics was still limited. I put down the
cessation of all inquiries, certainly not without due
justification, mainly to the effect of the false and calumnious
reports in the papers.

My old friend Laube tried, indeed, to undertake my defence in the
press. On New Year's Day, 1843 he resumed the editorship of the
Zeitung fur die Elegante Welt, and asked me to provide him with a
biographical notice of myself for the first number. It evidently
gave him great pleasure to present me thus in triumph to the
literary world, and in order to give the subject more prominence
he added a supplement to that number in the shape of a lithograph
reproduction of my portrait by Kietz. But after a time even he
became anxious and confused in his judgment of my works, when he
saw the systematic and increasingly virulent detraction,
depreciation, and scorn to which they were subjected. He
confessed to me later that he had never imagined such a desperate
position as mine against the united forces of journalism could
possibly exist, and when he heard my view of the question, he
smiled and gave me his blessing, as though I were a lost soul.

Moreover, a change was observable in the attitude of those
immediately connected with me in my work, and this provided very
acceptable material for the journalistic campaign. I had been
led, though by no ambitious impulse, to ask to be allowed to
conduct the performances of my own works. I found that at every
performance of Rienzi Reissiger became more negligent in his
conducting, and that the whole production was slipping back into
the old familiar, expressionless, and humdrum performance; and as
my appointment was already mooted, I had asked permission to
conduct the sixth performance of my work in person. I conducted
without having held a single rehearsal, and without any previous
experience, at the head of the Dresden orchestra. The performance
went splendidly; singers and orchestra were inspired with new
life, and everybody was obliged to admit that this was the finest
performance of Rienzi that had yet been given. The rehearsing and
con-ducting of the Fliegender Hollander were willingly handed
over to me, because Reissiger was overwhelmed with work, in
consequence of the death of the musical director, Rastrelli. In
addition to this I was asked to conduct Weber's Euryanthe, by way
of providing a direct proof of my capacity to interpret scores
other than my own. Apparently everybody was pleased, and it was
the tone of this performance that made Weber's widow so anxious
that I should accept the Dresden conductorship; she declared that
for the first time since her husband's death she had heard his
work correctly interpreted, both in expression and time.

Thereupon, Reissiger, who would have preferred to have a musical
director under him, but had received instead a colleague on an
equal footing, felt himself aggrieved by my appointment. Though
his own indolence would have inclined him to the side of peace
and a good understanding with me, his ambitious wife took care to
stir up his fear of me. This never led to an openly hostile
attitude on his part, but I noticed certain indiscretions in the
press from that time onwards, which showed me that the
friendliness of my colleague, who never talked to me without
first embracing me, was not of the most honourable type.

I also received a quite unexpected proof that I had attracted the
bitter envy of another man whose sentiments I had no reason to
suspect. This was Karl Lipinsky, a celebrated violinist in his
day, who had for many years led the Dresden orchestra. He was a
man of ardent temperament and original talent, but of incredible
vanity, which his emotional, suspicious Polish temperament
rendered dangerous. I always found him annoying, because however
inspiring and instructive his playing was as to the technical
execution of the violinists, he was certainly ill-fitted to be
the leader of a first-class orchestra. This extraordinary person
tried to justify Director Luttichau's praise of his playing,
which could always be heard above the rest of the orchestra; he
came in a little before the other violins; he was a leader in a
double sense, as he was always a little ahead. He acted in much
the same way with regard to expression, marking his slight
variations in the piano passages with fanatical precision. It was
useless to talk to him about it, as nothing but the most skilful
flattery had any effect on him. So I had to endure it as best I
could, and to think out ways and means of diminishing its ill
effects on the orchestral performances as a whole by having
recourse to the most polite circumlocutions. Even so he could not
endure the higher estimation in which the performances of the
orchestra under my conductorship were held, because he thought
that the playing of an orchestra in which he was the leader must
invariably be excellent, whoever stood at the conductor's desk.
Now it happened, as is always the case when a new man with fresh
ideas is installed in office, that the members of the orchestra
came to me with the most varied suggestions for improvements
which had hitherto been neglected; and Lipinsky, who was already
annoyed about this, turned a certain case of this kind to a
peculiarly treacherous use. One of the oldest contrabassists had
died. Lipinsky urged me to arrange that the post should not be
filled in the usual way by promotion from the ranks of our own
orchestra, but should be given, on his recommendation, to a
distinguished and skilful contrabassist from Darmstadt named
Muller. When the musician whose rights of seniority were thus
threatened, appealed to me, I kept my promise to Lipinsky,
explained my views about the abuses of promotion by seniority,
and declared that, in accordance with my sworn oath to the King,
I held it my paramount duty to consider the maintenance of the
artistic interests of the institution before everything else. I
then found to my great astonishment, though it was foolish of me
to be surprised, that the whole of the orchestra turned upon me
as one man, and when the occasion arose for a discussion between
Lipinsky and myself as to his own numerous grievances, he
actually accused me of having threatened, by my remarks in the
contrabassist case, to undermine the well-established rights of
the members of the orchestra, whose welfare it was my duty to
protect. Luttichau, who was on the point of absenting himself
from Dresden for some time, was extremely uneasy, as Reissiger
was away on his holiday, at leaving musical affairs in such a
dangerous state of unrest. The deceit and impudence of which I
had been the victim was a revelation to me, and I gathered from
this experience the calm sense necessary to set the harassed
director at ease by the most conclusive assurances that I
understood the people with whom I had to deal, and would act
accordingly. I faithfully kept my word, and never again came into
collision either with Lipinsky or any other member of the
orchestra. On the contrary, all the musicians were soon so firmly
attached to me that I could always pride myself on their

From that day forward, however, one thing at least was certain,
namely, that I should not die as conductor at Dresden. My post
and my work at Dresden thenceforward became a burden, of which
the occasionally excellent results of my efforts made me all the
more sensible.

My position at Dresden, however, brought me one friend whose
intimate relations with me long survived our artistic
collaboration in Dresden. A musical director was assigned to each
conductor; he had to be a musician of repute, a hard worker,
adaptable, and, above all, a Catholic, for the two conductors
were Protestants, a cause of much annoyance to the clergy of the
Catholic cathedral, numerous positions in which had to be filled
from the orchestra. August Rockel, a nephew of Hummel, who sent
in his application for this position from Weimar, furnished
evidence of his suitability under all these heads. He belonged to
an old Bavarian family; his father was a singer, and had sung the
part of Florestan at the time of the first production of
Beethoven's Fidelio, and had himself remained on terms on close
intimacy with the Master, many details about whose life have been
preserved through his care. His subsequent position as a teacher
of singing led him to take up theatrical management, and he
introduced German opera to the Parisians with so much success,
that the credit for the popularity of Fidelio and Der Freischutz
with French audiences, to whom these works were quite unknown,
must be awarded to his admirable enterprise, which was also
responsible for Schroder-Devrient's debut in Paris. August
Rockel, his son, who was still a young man, by helping his father
in these and similar undertakings, had gained practical
experience as a musician. As his father's business had for some
time even extended to England, August had won practical knowledge
of all sorts by contact with many men and things, and in addition
had learned French and English. But music had remained his chosen
vocation, and his great natural talent justified the highest
hopes of success. He was an excellent pianist, read scores with
the utmost ease, possessed an exceptionally fine ear, and had
indeed every qualification for a practical musician. As a
composer he was actuated, not so much by a strong impulse to
create, as the desire to show what he was capable of; the success
at which he aimed was to gain the reputation of a clever operatic
composer rather than recognition as a distinguished musician, and
he hoped to obtain his end by the production of popular works.
Actuated by this modest ambition he had completed an opera,
Farinelli, for which he had also written the libretto, with no
other aspiration than that of attaining the same reputation as
his brother-in-law Lortzing.

He brought this score to me, and begged me--it was his first
visit before he had heard one of my operas in Dresden--to play
him something from Rienzi and the Fliegender Hollander. His
frank, agreeable personality induced me to try and meet his
wishes as far as I could; and I am convinced that I soon made
such a great and unexpectedly powerful impression on him that
from that moment he determined not to bother me further with the
score of his opera. It was not until we had become more intimate
and had discovered mutual personal interests, that the desire of
turning his work to account induced him to ask me to show my
practical friendship by turning my attention to his score. I made
various suggestions as to how it might be improved, but he was
soon so hopelessly disgusted with his own work that he put it
absolutely aside, and never again felt seriously moved to
undertake a similar task. On making a closer acquaintance with my
completed operas and plans for new works, he declared to me that
he felt it his vocation to play the part of spectator, to be my
faithful helper and the interpreter of my new ideas, and, as far
as in him lay, to remove entirely, and at all events to relieve
me as far as possible from, all the unpleasantnesses of my
official position and of my dealings with the outside world. He
wished, he said, to avoid placing himself in the ridiculous
position of composing operas of his own while living on terms of
close friendship with me.

Nevertheless, I tried to urge him to turn his own talent to
account, and to this end called his attention to several plots
which I wished him to work out. Among these was the idea
contained in a small French drama entitled Cromwell's Daughter,
which was subsequently used as the subject for a sentimental
pastoral romance, and for the elaboration of which I presented
him with an exhaustive plan.

But in the end all my efforts remained fruitless, and it became
evident that his productive talent was feeble. This perhaps arose
partly from his extremely needy and trying domestic
circumstances, which were such that the poor fellow wore himself
out to support his wife and numerous growing children. Indeed, he
claimed my help and sympathy in quite another fashion than by
arousing my interest in his artistic development. He was
unusually clear-headed, and possessed a rare capacity for
teaching and educating himself in every branch of knowledge and
experience; he was, moreover, so genuinely true and good-hearted
that he soon became my intimate friend and comrade. He was, and
continued to be, the only person who really appreciated the
singular nature of my position towards the surrounding world, and
with whom I could fully and sincerely discuss the cares and
sorrows arising therefrom. What dreadful trials and experiences,
what painful anxieties our common fate was to bring upon us, will
soon be seen.

The earlier period of my establishment in Dresden brought me also
another devoted and lifelong friend, though his qualities were
such that he exerted a less decisive influence upon my career.
This was a young physician, named Anton Pusinelli, who lived near
me. He seized the occasion of a serenade sung in honour of my
thirtieth birthday by the Dresden Glee Club to express to me
personally his hearty and sincere attachment. We soon entered
upon a quiet friendship from which we derived a mutual benefit.
He became my attentive family doctor, and during my residence in
Dresden, marked as it was by accumulating difficulties, he had
abundant opportunities of helping me. His financial position was
very good, and his ready self-sacrifice enabled him to give me
substantial succour and bound me to him by many heartfelt

A further development of my association with Dresden buddy was
provided by the kindly advances of Chamberlain von Konneritz's
family. His wife, Marie von Konneritz (nee Fink), was a friend of
Countess Ida Hahn-Hahn, and expressed her appreciation of my
success as a composer with great warmth, I might almost say, with
enthusiasm. I was often invited to their house, and seemed
likely, through this family, to be brought into touch with the
higher aristocracy of Dresden. I merely succeeded in touching the
fringe, however, as we really had nothing in common. True, I here
made the acquaintance of Countess Rossi, the famous Sontag, by
whom, to my genuine astonishment, I was most heartily greeted,
and I thereby obtained the right of afterwards approaching her in
Berlin with a certain degree of familiarity. The curious way in
which I was disillusioned about this lady on that occasion will
be related in due course. I would only mention here that, through
my earlier experiences of the world, I had become fairly
impervious to deception, and my desire for closer acquaintance
with these circles speedily gave way to a complete hopelessness
and an entire lack of ease in their sphere of life.

Although the Konneritz couple remained friendly during the whole
of my prolonged sojourn in Dresden, yet the connection had not
the least influence either upon my development or my position.
Only once, on the occasion of a quarrel between Luttichau and
myself, the former observed that Frau von Konneritz, by her
unmeasured praises, had turned my head and made me forget my
position towards him. But in making this taunt he forgot that, if
any woman in the higher ranks of Dresden society had exerted a
real and invigorating influence upon my inward pride, that woman
was his own wife, Ida von Luttichau (nee von Knobelsdorf).

The power which this cultured, gentle, and distinguished lady
exercised over my life was of a kind I now experienced for the
first time, and might have become of great importance had I been
favoured with more frequent and intimate intercourse. But it was
less her position as wife of the general director than her
constant ill-health and my own peculiar unwillingness to appear
obtrusive, that hindered our meeting, except at rare intervals.
My recollections of her merge somewhat, in my memory, with those
of my own sister Rosalie. I remember the tender ambition which
inspired me to win the encouraging sympathy of this sensitive
woman, who was painfully wasting away amid the coarsest
surroundings. My earliest hope for the fulfilment of this
ambition arose from her appreciation of my Fliegender Hollander,
in spite of the fact that, following close upon Rienzi, it had so
puzzled the Dresden public. In this way she was the first, so to
speak, who swam against the tide and met me upon my new path. So
deeply was I touched by this conquest that, when I afterwards
published the opera, I dedicated it to her. In the account of my
later years in Dresden I shall have more to record of the warm
sympathy for my new development and dearest artistic aims for
which I was indebted to her. But of real intercourse we had none,
and the character of my Dresden life was not affected by this
acquaintance, otherwise so important in itself.

On the other hand, my theatrical acquaintances thrust themselves
with irresistible importunancy into the wide foreground of my
life, and in fact, after my brilliant successes, I was still
restricted to the same limited and familiar sphere in which I had
prepared myself for these triumphs. Indeed, the only one who
joined my old friends Heine and Gaffer Fischer was Tichatschek,
with his strange domestic circle. Any one who lived in Dresden at
that time and chanced to know the court lithographer, Furstenau,
will be astonished to hear that, without really being aware of it
myself, I entered into a familiarity that was to prove a lasting
one with this man who was an intimate friend of Tichatschek's.
The importance of this singular connection may be judged from the
fact that my complete withdrawal from him coincided exactly with
the collapse of my civic position in Dresden.

My good-humoured acceptance of election to the musical committee
of the Dresden Glee Club also brought me further chance
acquaintances. This club consisted of a limited number of young
merchants and officials, who had more taste for any kind of
convivial entertainment than for music. But it was seduously kept
together by a remarkable and ambitious man, Professor Lowe, who
nursed it with special objects in view, for the attainment of
which he felt the need of an authority such as I possessed at
that time in Dresden.

Among other aims he was particularly and chiefly concerned in
arranging for the transfer of Weber's remains from London to
Dresden. As this project was one which interested me also, I lent
him my support, though he was in reality merely following the
voice of personal ambition. He furthermore desired, as head of
the Glee Club--which, by the way, from the point of view of music
was quite worthless--to invite all the male choral unions of
Saxony to a great gala performance in Dresden. A committee was
appointed for the execution of this plan, and as things soon
became pretty warm, Lowe turned it into a regular revolutionary
tribunal, over which, as the great day of triumph approached, he
presided day and night without resting, and by his furious zeal
earned from me the nickname of 'Robespierre.'

In spite of the fact that I had been placed at the head of this
enterprise, I luckily managed to evade his terrorism, as I was
fully occupied with a great composition promised for the
festival. The task had been assigned to me of writing an
important piece for male voices only, which, if possible, should
occupy half an hour. I reflected that the tiresome monotony of
male singing, which even the orchestra could only enliven to a
slight extent, can only be endured by the introduction of
dramatic themes. I therefore designed a great choral scene,
selecting the apostolic Pentecost with the outpouring of the Holy
Ghost as its subject. I completely avoided any real solos, but
worked out the whole in such a way that it should be executed by
detached choral masses according to requirement. Out of this
composition arose my Liebesmahl der Apostel ('Lovefeast of the
Apostles'), which has recently been performed in various places.

As I was obliged at all costs to finish it within a limited time,
I do not mind including this in the list of my uninspired
compositions. But I was not displeased with it when it was done,
more especially when it was played at the rehearsals given by the
Dresden choral societies under my personal supervision. When,
therefore, twelve hundred singers from all parts of Saxony
gathered around me in the Frauenkirche, where the performance
took place, I was astonished at the comparatively feeble effect
produced upon my ear by this colossal human tangle of sounds. The
conclusion at which I arrived was, that these enormous choral
undertakings are folly, and I never again felt inclined to repeat
the experiment.

It was with much difficulty that I shook myself free of the
Dresden Glee Club, and I only succeeded in doing so by
introducing to Professor Lowe another ambitious man in the person
of Herr Ferdinand Hiller. My most glorious exploit in connection
with this association was the transfer of Weber's ashes, of which
I will speak later on, though it occurred at an earlier date. I
will only refer now to another commissioned composition which, as
royal bandmaster, I was officially commanded to produce. On the
7th of June of this year (1843) the statue of King Frederick
Augustus by Rietschl was unveiled in the Dresden Zwinger
[Footnote: This is the name by which the famous Dresden Art
Galleries are known.--Editor.] with all due pomp and ceremony. In
honour of this event I, in collaboration with Mendelssohn, was
commanded to compose a festal song, and to conduct the gala
performance. I had written a simple song for male voices of
modest design, whereas to Mendelssohn had been assigned the more
complicated task of interweaving the National Anthem (the English
'God Save the King,' which in Saxony is called Heil Dir im
Rautenkranz) into the male chorus he had to compose. This he had
effected by an artistic work in counterpoint, so arranged that
from the first eight beats of his original melody the brass
instruments simultaneously played the Anglo-Saxon popular air. My
simpler song seems to have sounded very well from a distance,
whereas I understood that Mendelssohn's daring combination quite
missed its effect, because no one could understand why the
vocalists did not sing the same air as the wind instruments were
playing. Nevertheless Mendelssohn, who was present, left me a
written expression of thanks for the pains I had taken in the
production of his composition. I also received a gold snuff-box
from the grand gala committee, presumably meant as a reward for
my male chorus, but the hunting scene which was engraved on the
top was so badly done that I found, to my surprise, that in
several places the metal was cut through.

Amid all the distractions of this new and very different mode of
life, I diligently strove to concentrate and steel my soul
against these influences, bearing in mind my experiences of
success in the past. By May of my thirtieth year I had finished
my poem Der Venusberg ('The Mount of Venus'), as I called
Tannhauser at that time. I had not yet by any means gained any
real knowledge of mediaeval poetry. The classical side of the
poetry of the Middle Ages had so far only faintly dawned upon me,
partly from my youthful recollections, and partly from the brief
acquaintance I had made with it through Lehrs' instruction in

Now that I was secure in the possession of a royal appointment
that would last my lifetime, the establishment of a permanent
domestic hearth began to assume great importance; for I hoped it
would enable me to take up my serious studies once more, and in
such a way as to make them productive--an aim which my theatrical
life and the miseries of my years in Paris had rendered
impossible. My hope of being able to do this was strengthened by
the character of my official employment, which was never very
arduous, and in which I met with exceptional consideration from
the general management. Though I had only held my appointment for
a few months, yet I was given a holiday this first summer, which
I spent in a second visit to Toplitz, a place which I had grown
to like, and whither I had sent on my wife in advance.

Keenly indeed did I appreciate the change in my position since
the preceding year. I could now engage four spacious and well-
appointed rooms in the same house--the Eiche at Schonau--where I
had before lived in such straitened and frugal circumstances. I
invited my sister Clara to pay us a visit, and also my good
mother, whose gout necessitated her taking the Toplitz baths
every year. I also seized the opportunity of drinking the mineral
waters, which I hoped might have a beneficial effect on the
gastric troubles from which I had suffered ever since my
vicissitudes in Paris. Unfortunately the attempted cure had a
contrary effect, and when I complained of the painful irritation
produced, I learned that my constitution was not adapted for
water cures. In fact, on my morning promenade, and while drinking
my water, I had been observed to race through the shady alleys of
the adjacent Thurn Gardens, and it was pointed out to me that
such a cure could only be properly wrought by leisurely calm and
easy sauntering. It was also remarked that I usually carried
about a fairly stout volume, and that, armed with this and my
bottle of mineral water, I used to take rest in lonely places.

This book was J. Grimm's German Mythology. All who know the work
can understand how the unusual wealth of its contents, gathered
from every side, and meant almost exclusively for the student,
would react upon me, whose mind was everywhere seeking for
something definite and distinct. Formed from the scanty fragments
of a perished world, of which scarcely any monuments remained
recognisable and intact, I here found a heterogeneous building,
which at first glance seemed but a rugged rock clothed in
straggling brambles. Nothing was finished, only here and there
could the slightest resemblance to an architectonic line be
traced, so that I often felt tempted to relinquish the thankless
task of trying to build from such materials. And yet I was
enchained by a wondrous magic. The baldest legend spoke to me of
its ancient home, and soon my whole imagination thrilled with
images; long-lost forms for which I had sought so eagerly shaped
themselves ever more and more clearly into realities that lived
again. There rose up soon before my mind a whole world of
figures, which revealed themselves as so strangely plastic and
primitive, that, when I saw them clearly before me and heard
their voices in my heart, I could not account for the almost
tangible familiarity and assurance of their demeanour. The effect
they produced upon the inner state of my soul I can only describe
as an entire rebirth. Just as we feel a tender joy over a child's
first bright smile of recognition, so now my own eyes flashed
with rapture as I saw a world, revealed, as it were, by miracle,
in which I had hitherto moved blindly as the babe in its mother's

But the result of this reading did not at first do much to help
me in my purpose of composing part of the Tannhauser music. I had
had a piano put in my room at the Eiche, and though I smashed all
its strings, nothing satisfactory would emerge. With much pain
and toil I sketched the first outlines of my music for the
Venusberg, as fortunately I already had its theme in my mind.
Meanwhile I was very much troubled by excitability and rushes of
blood to the brain. I imagined I was ill, and lay for whole days
in bed, where I read Grimm's German legends, or tried to master
the disagreeable mythology. It was quite a relief when I hit upon
the happy thought of freeing myself from the torments of my
condition by an excursion to Prague. Meanwhile I had already
ascended Mount Millischau once with my wife, and in her company I
now made the journey to Prague in an open carriage. There I
stayed once more at my favourite inn, the Black Horse, met my
friend Kittl, who had now grown fat and rotund, made various
excursions, revelled in the curious antiquities of the old city,
and learned to my joy that the two lovely friends of my youth,
Jenny and Auguste Pachta, had been happily married to members of
the highest aristocracy. Thereupon, having reassured myself that
everything was in the best possible order, I returned to Dresden
and resumed my functions as musical conductor to the King of

We now set to work on the preparations and furnishing of a roomy
and well-situated house in the Ostra Allee, with an outlook upon
the Zwinger. Everything was good and substantial, as is only
right for a man of thirty who is settling down at last for the
whole of his life. As I had not received any subsidy towards this
outlay, I had naturally to raise the money by loan. But I could
look forward to a certain harvest from my operatic successes in
Dresden, and what was more natural than for me to expect soon to
earn more than enough? The three most valued treasures which
adorned my house were a concert grand piano by Breitkopf and
Hartel, which I had bought with much pride; a stately writing-
desk, now in possession of Otto Kummer, the chamber-music artist;
and the title-page by Cornelius for the Nibelungen, in a handsome
Gothic frame--the only object which has remained faithful to me
to the present day. But the thing which above all else made my
house seem homelike and attractive was the presence of a library,
which I procured in accordance with a systematic plan laid down
by my proposed line of study. On the failure of my Dresden career
this library passed in a curious way into the possession of Herr
Heinrich Brockhaus, to whom at that time I owed fifteen hundred
marks, and who took it as security for the amount. My wife knew
nothing at the time of this obligation, and I never afterwards
succeeded in recovering this characteristic collection from his
hands. Upon its shelves old German literature was especially well
represented, and also the closely related work of the German
Middle Ages, including many a costly volume, as, for instance,
the rare old work, Romans des douze Paris. Beside these stood
many excellent historical works on the Middle Ages, as well as on
the German people in general. At the same time I made provision
for the poetical and classical literature of all times and
languages. Among these were the Italian poets, Shakespeare and
the French writers, of whose language I had a passable knowledge.
All these I acquired in the original, hoping some day to find
time to master their neglected tongues. As for the Greek and
Roman classics, I had to content myself with standard German
translations. Indeed, on looking once more into my Homer--whom I
secured in the original Greek--I soon recognised that I should be
presuming on more leisure than my conductorship was likely to
leave me, if I hoped to find time for regaining my lost knowledge
of that language. Moreover, I provided most thoroughly for a
study of universal history, and to this end did not fail to equip
myself with the most voluminous works. Thus armed, I thought I
could bid defiance to all the trials which I clearly foresaw
would inevitably accompany my calling and position. In hopes,
therefore, of long and peaceable enjoyment of this hard-earned
home, I entered into possession with the best of spirits in
October of this year (1843), and though my conductor's quarters
were by no means magnificent, they were stately and substantial.

The first leisure in my new home which I could snatch from the
claims of my profession and my favourite studies was devoted to
the composition of Tannhauser, the first act of which was
completed in January of the new year, 1844. I have no
recollections of any importance regarding my activities in
Dresden during this winter. The only memorable events were two
enterprises which took me away from home, the first to Berlin
early in the year, for the production of my Fliegender Hollander,
and the other in March to Hamburg for Rienzi.

Of these the former made the greater impression upon my mind. The
manager of the Berlin theatre, Kustner, quite took me by surprise
when he announced the first performance of the Fliegender
Hollander for an early date.

As the opera house had been burnt down only about a year before,
and could not possibly have been rebuilt, it had not occurred to
me to remind them about the production of my opera. It had been
performed in Dresden with very poor scenic accessories, and
knowing how important a careful and artistic execution of the
difficult scenery was for my dramatic sea-scapes, I had relied
implicitly on the admirable management and staging capacities of
the Berlin opera house. Consequently I was very much annoyed that
the Berlin manager should select my opera as a stopgap to be
produced at the Comedy Theatre, which was being used as a
temporary opera house. All remonstrances proved useless, for I
learned that they were not merely thinking about rehearsing the
work, but that it was already actually being rehearsed, and would
be produced in a few days. It was obvious that this arrangement
meant that my opera was to be condemned to quite a short run in
their repertoire, as it was not to be expected that they would
remount it when the new opera house was opened. On the other
hand, they tried to appease me by saying that this first
production of the Fliegender Hollander was to be associated with
a special engagement of Schroder-Devrient, which was to begin in
Berlin immediately. They naturally thought I should be delighted
to see the great actress in my own work. But this only confirmed
me in the suspicion that this opera was simply wanted as a
makeshift for the duration of Schroder-Devrient's visit. They
were evidently in a dilemma with regard to her repertoire, which
consisted mainly of so-called grand operas--such as Meyerbeer's--
destined exclusively for the opera house, and which were being
specially reserved for the brilliant future of the new building.
I therefore realised beforehand that my Fliegender Hollander was
to be relegated to the category of conductor's operas, and would
meet with the usual predestined fate of such productions. The
whole treatment meted out to me and my works all pointed in the
same direction; but in consideration of the expected co-operation
of Schroder-Devrient I fought against these vexatious
premonitions, and set out for Berlin to do all I could for the
success of my opera. I saw at once that my presence was very
necessary. I found the conductor's desk occupied by a man calling
himself Conductor Henning (or Henniger), an official who had won
promotion from the ranks of ordinary musicians by an upright
observance of the laws of seniority, but who knew precious little
about conducting an orchestra at all, and about my opera had not
the faintest glimmer of an idea. I took my seat at the desk, and
conducted one full rehearsal and two performances, in neither of
which, however, did Schroder-Devrient take part. Although I found
much to complain of in the weakness of the string instruments and
the consequent mean sound of the orchestra, yet I was well
satisfied with the actors both as regards their capacity and
their zeal. The careful staging, moreover, which under the
supervision of the really gifted stage manager, Blum, and with
the co-operation of his skilful and ingenious mechanics, was
truly excellent, gave me a most pleasant surprise.

I was now very curious to learn what effect these pleasing and
encouraging preparations would have upon the Berlin public when
the full performance took place. My experiences on this point
were very curious. Apparently the only thing that interested the
large audience was to discover my weak points. During the first
act the prevalent opinion seemed to be that I belonged to the
category of bores. Not a single hand was moved, and I was
afterwards informed that this was fortunate, as the slightest
attempt at applause would have been ascribed to a paid claque,
and would have been energetically opposed. Kustner alone assured
me that the composure with which, on the close of this act, I
quitted my desk and appeared before the curtain, had filled him
with wonder, considering this entire absence--lucky as it appears
to have been--of all applause. But so long as I myself felt
content with the execution, I was not disposed to let the public
apathy discourage me, knowing, as I did, that the crucial test
was in the second act.

It lay, therefore, much nearer my heart to do all I could for the
success of this than to inquire into the reasons for this
attitude on the part of the Berlin public. And here the ice was
really broken at last. The audience seemed to abandon all idea of
finding a proper niche for me, and allowed itself to be carried
away into giving vent to applause, which at last grew into the
most boisterous enthusiasm. At the close of the act, amid a storm
of shouts, I led forward my singers on to the stage for the
customary bows of thanks. As the third act was too short to be
tedious, and as the scenic effects were both new and impressive,
we could not help hoping that we had won a veritable triumph,
especially as renewed outbursts of applause marked the end of the
performance. Mendelssohn, who happened at that time to be in
Berlin, with Meyerbeer, on business relating to the general
musical conductorship, was present in a stage box during this
performance. He followed its progress with a pale face, and
afterwards came and murmured to me in a weary tone of voice,
'Well, I should think you are satisfied now!' I met him several
times during my brief stay in Berlin., and also spent an evening
with him listening to various pieces of chamber-music. But never
did another word concerning the Fliegender Hollander pass his
lips, beyond inquiries as to the second performance, and as to
whether Devrient or some one else would appear in it. I heard,
moreover, that he had responded with equal indifference to the
earnest warmth of my allusions to his own music for the Midsummer
Night's Dream, which was being frequently played at that time,
and which I had heard for the first time. The only thing he
discussed with any detail was the actor Gern, who was playing in
Zettel, and who he considered was overacting his part.

A few days later came a second performance with the same cast. My
experiences on this evening were even more startling than on the
former. Evidently the first night had won me a few friends, who
were again present, for they began to applaud after the overture.
But others responded with hisses, and for the rest of the evening
no one again ventured to applaud. My old friend Heine had arrived
in the meantime from Dresden, sent by our own board of directors
to study the scenic arrangements of the Midsummer Night's Dream
for our theatre. He was present at this second performance, and
had persuaded me to accept the invitation from one of his Berlin
relatives to have supper after the performance in a wine-bar
unter den Linden. Very weary, I followed him to a nasty and badly
lighted house, where I gulped down the wine with hasty ill-humour
to warm myself, and listened to the embarrassed conversation of
my good-natured friend and his companion, whilst I turned over
the day's papers. I now had ample leisure to read the criticisms
they contained on the first performance of my Fliegender
Hollander. A terrible spasm cut my heart as I realised the
contemptible tone and unparalleled shamelessness of their raging
ignorance regarding my own name and work. Our Berlin friend and
host, a thorough Philistine, said that he had known how things
would go in the theatre that night, after having read these
criticisms in the morning. The people of Berlin, he added, wait
to hear what Rellstab and his mates have to say, and then they
know how to behave. The good fellow was anxious to cheer me up,
and ordered one wine after another. Heine hunted up his
reminiscences of our merry Rienzi times in Dresden, until at last
the pair conducted me, staggering along in an addled condition,
to my hotel.

It was already midnight. As I was being lighted by the waiter
through its gloomy corridors to my room, a gentleman in black,
with a pale refined face, came forward and said he would like to
speak to me. He informed me that he had waited there since the
close of the play, and as he was determined to see me, had
stopped till now. I excused myself on the ground of being quite
unfit for business, and added that, although not exactly inclined
to merriment, I had, as he might perceive, somewhat foolishly
drunk a little too much wine. This I said in a stammering voice;
but my strange visitor seemed only the more unwilling to be
repulsed. He accompanied me to my room, declaring that it was all
the more imperative for him to speak with me. We seated ourselves
in the cold room, by the meagre light of a single candle, and
then he began to talk. In flowing and impressive language he
related that he had been present at the performance that night of
my Fliegender Hollander, and could well conceive the humour in
which the evening's experiences had left me. For this very reason
he felt that nothing should hinder him from speaking to me that
night, and telling me that in the Fliegender Hollander I had
produced an unrivalled masterpiece. Moreover, the acquaintance he
had made with this work had awakened in him a new and unforeseen
hope for the future of German art; and that it would be a great
pity if I yielded to any sense of discouragement as the result of
the unworthy reception accorded to it by the Berlin public. My
hair began to stand on end. One of Hoffmann's fantastic creations
had entered bodily into my life. I could find nothing to say,
except to inquire the name of my visitor, at which he seemed
surprised, as I had talked with him the day before at
Mendelssohn's house. He said that my conversation and manner had
created such an impression upon him there, and had filled him
with such sudden regret at not having sufficiently overcome his
dislike for opera in general, to be present at the first
performance, that he had at once resolved not to miss the second.
His name, he added, was Professor Werder. That was no use to me,
I said, he must write his name down. Getting paper and ink, he
did as I desired, and we parted. I flung myself unconsciously on
the bed for a deep and invigorating sleep. Next morning I was
fresh and well. I paid a farewell call on Schroeder-Devrient, who
promised me to do all she could for the Fliegender Hollander as
soon as possible, drew my fee of a hundred ducats, and set off
for home. On my way through Leipzig I utilised my ducats for the
repayment of sundry advances made me by my relatives during the
earlier and poverty-stricken period of my sojourn in Dresden, and
then continued my journey, to recuperate among my books and
meditate upon the deep impression made on me by Werder's midnight

Before the end of this winter I received a genuine invitation to
Hamburg for the performance of Rienzi. The enterprising director,
Herr Cornet, through whom it came, confessed that he had many
difficulties to contend against in the management of his theatre,
and was in need of a great success. This, after the reception
with which it had met in Dresden, he thought he could secure by
the production of Rienzi. I accordingly betook myself thither in
the month of March. The journey at that time was not an easy one,
as after Hanover one had to proceed by mail-coach, and the
crossing of the Elbe, which was full of floating ice, was a risky
business. Owing to a great fire that had recently broken out, the
town of Hamburg was in process of being rebuilt, and there were
still many wide spaces encumbered with ruins. Cold weather and an
ever-gloomy sky make my recollections of my somewhat prolonged
sojourn in this town anything but agreeable. I was tormented to
such an extent by having to rehearse with bad material, fit only
for the poorest theatrical trumpery, that, worn out and exposed
to constant colds, I spent most of my leisure time in the
solitude of my inn chamber. My earlier experiences of ill-
arranged and badly managed theatres came back to me afresh. I was
particularly depressed when I realised that I had made myself an
unconscious accomplice of Director Cornet's basest interests. His
one aim was to create a sensation, which he thought should be of
great service to me also; and not only did he put me off with a
smaller fee, but even suggested that it should be paid by gradual
instalments. The dignity of scenic decoration, of which he had
not the smallest idea, was completely sacrificed to the most
ridiculous and tawdry showiness. He imagined that pageantry was
all that was really needed to secure my success. So he hunted out
all the old fairy-ballet costumes from his stock, and fancied
that if they only looked gay enough, and if plenty of people were
bustling about on the stage, I ought to be satisfied. But the
most sorry item of all was the singer he provided for the title-
role. He was a man of the name of Wurda, an elderly, flabby and
voiceless tenor, who sang Rienzi with the expression of a lover--
like Elvino, for instance, in the Somnanibula. He was so dreadful
that I conceived the idea of making the Capitol tumble down in
the second act, so as to bury him sooner in its ruins, a plan
which would have cut out several of the processions, which were
so dear to the heart of the director. I found my one ray of light
in a lady singer, who delighted me with the fire with which she
played the part of Adriano. This was a Mme. Fehringer, who was
afterwards engaged by Liszt for the role of Ortrud in the
production of Lohengrin at Weimar, but by that time her powers
had greatly deteriorated. Nothing could be more depressing than
my connection with this opera under such dismal circumstances.
And yet there were no outward signs of failure. The manager hoped
in any case to keep Rienzi in his repertoire until Tichatschek
was able to come to Hamburg and give the people of that town a
true idea of the play. This actually took place in the following

My discouragement and ill-humour did not escape the notice of
Herr Cornet, and discovering that I wished to present my wife
with a parrot, he managed to procure a very fine bird, which he
gave me as a parting gift. I carried it with me in its narrow
cage on my melancholy journey home, and was touched to find that
it quickly repaid my care and became very much attached to me.
Minna greeted me with great joy when she saw this beautiful grey
parrot, for she regarded it as a self-evident proof that I should
do something in life. We already had a pretty little dog, born on
the day of the first Rienzi rehearsal in Dresden, which, owing to
its passionate devotion to myself, was much petted by all who
knew me and visited my house during those years. This sociable
bird, which had no vices and was an apt scholar, now formed an
addition to our household; and the pair did much to brighten our
dwelling in the absence of children. My wife soon taught the bird
snatches of songs from Rienzi, with which it would good-naturedly
greet me from a distance when it heard me coming up the stairs.

And thus at last my domestic hearth seemed to be established with
every possible prospect of a comfortable competency.

No further excursions for the performance of any of my operas
took place, for the simple reason that no such performances were
given. As I saw it was quite clear that the diffusion of my works
through the theatrical world would be a very slow business, I
concluded that this was probably due to the fact that no
adaptations of them for the piano existed. I therefore thought
that I should do well to press forward such an issue at all
costs, and in order to secure the expected profits, I hit upon
the idea of publishing at my own expense. I accordingly made
arrangements with F. Meser, the court music-dealer, who had
hitherto not got beyond the publication of a valse, and signed an
agreement with him for his firm to appear as the nominal
publishers on the understanding that they should receive a
commission of ten per cent, whilst I provided the necessary

As there were two operas to be issued, including Rienzi, a work
of exceptional bulk, it was not likely that these publications
would prove very profitable unless, in addition to the usual
piano selections, I also published adaptations, such as the music
without words, for duet or solo. For this a fairly large capital
was necessary. I also needed funds for the repayment of the loans
already mentioned, and for the settlement of old debts, as well
as to pay off the remaining expenses of my house-furnishing. I
was therefore obliged to try and procure much larger sums. I laid
my project and its motive before Schroder-Devrient, who had just
returned to Dresden, at Easter, 1844, to fulfil a fresh
engagement. She believed in the future of my works, recognised
the peculiarity of my position, as well as the correctness of my
calculations, and declared her willingness to provide the
necessary capital for the publication of my operas, refusing to
consider the act as one involving any sacrifice on her part. This
money she proposed to get by selling out her investments in
Polish state-bonds, and I was to pay the customary rate of
interest. The thing was so easily done, and seemed so much a
matter of course, that I at once made all needful arrangements
with my Leipzig printer, and set to work on the publication of my

When the amount of work delivered brought with it a demand for
considerable payments on account, I approached my friend for a
first advance. And here I became confronted with a new phase of
that famous lady's life, which placed me in a position which
proved as disastrous as it was unexpected. After having broken
away from the unlucky Herr von Munchhausen some time previously,
and returned, as it appeared, with penitential ardour to her
former connection with my friend, Hermann Muller, it now turned
out that she had found no real satisfaction in this fresh
relationship. On the contrary, the star of her being, whom she
had so long and ardently desired, had now at last arisen in the
person of another lieutenant of the Guards. With a vehemence
which made light of her treachery to her old friend, she elected
this slim young man, whose moral and intellectual weaknesses were
patent to every eye, as the chosen keystone of her life's love.
He took the good luck that befell him so seriously, that he would
brook no jesting, and at once laid hands on the fortune of his
future wife, as he considered that it was disadvantageously and
insecurely invested, and thought that he knew of much more
profitable ways of employing it. My friend therefore explained,
with much pain and evident embarrassment, that she had renounced
all control over her capital, and was unable to keep her promise
to me.

Owing to this I entered upon a series of entanglements and
troubles which henceforth dominated my life, and plunged me into
sorrows that left their dismal mark on all my subsequent
enterprises. It was clear that I could not now abandon the
proposed plan of publication. The only satisfactory solution of
my perplexities was to be found in the execution of my project
and the success which I hoped would attend it. I was compelled,
therefore, to turn all my energies to the raising of the money
wherewith to publish my two operas, to which in all probability
Tannhauser would shortly have to be added. I first applied to my
friends, and in some cases had to pay exorbitant rates of
interest, even for short terms. For the present these details are
sufficient to prepare the reader for the catastrophe towards
which I was now inevitably drifting.

The hopelessness of my position did not at first reveal itself.
There seemed no reason to despair of the eventual spread of my
operatic works among the theatres in Germany, though my
experience of them indicated that the process would be slow. In
spite of the depressing experiences in Berlin and Hamburg, there
were many encouraging signs to be seen. Above all, Rienzi
maintained its position in favour of the people of Dresden, a
place which undoubtedly occupied a position of great importance,
especially during the summer months, when so many strangers from
all parts of the world pass through it. My opera, which was not
to be heard anywhere else, was in great request, both among the
Germans and other visitors, and was always received with marked
approbation, which surprised me very much. Thus a performance of
Rienzi, especially in summer, became quite a Dionysian revelry,
whose effect upon me could not fail to be encouraging.

On one occasion Liszt was among the number of these visitors. As
Rienzi did not happen to be in the repertoire when he arrived, he
induced the management at his earnest request to arrange a
special performance. I met him between the acts in Tichatschek's
dressing-room, and was heartily encouraged and touched by his
almost enthusiastic appreciation, expressed in his most emphatic
manner. The kind of life to which Liszt was at that time
condemned, and which bound him to a perpetual environment of
distracting and exciting elements, debarred us from all more
intimate and fruitful intercourse. Yet from this time onward I
continued to receive constant testimonies of the profound and
lasting impression I had made upon him, as well as of his
sympathetic remembrance of me. From various parts of the world,
wherever his triumphal progress led him, people, chiefly of the
upper classes, came to Dresden for the purpose of hearing Rienzi.
They had been so interested by Liszt's reports of my work, and by
his playing of various selections from it, that they all came
expecting something of unparalleled importance.

Besides these indications of Liszt's enthusiastic and friendly
sympathy, other deeply touching testimonies appeared from
different quarters. The startling beginning made by Werder, on
the occasion of his midnight visit after the second performance
of the Fliegender Hollander in Berlin, was shortly afterwards
followed by a similarly unsolicited approach in the form of an
effusive letter from an equally unknown personage, Alwino
Frommann, who afterwards became my faithful friend. After my
departure from Berlin she heard Schroder-Devrient twice in the
Fliegender Hollander, and the letter in which she described the
effect produced upon her by my work conveyed to me for the first
time the vigorous and profound sentiments of a deep and confident
recognition such as seldom falls to the lot of even the greatest
master, and cannot fail to exercise a weighty influence on his
mind and spirit, which long for self-confidence.

I have no very vivid recollections of my own doings during this
first year of my position as conductor in a sphere of action
which gradually grew more and more familiar. For the anniversary
of my appointment, and to some extent as a personal recognition,
I was commissioned to procure Gluck's Armida. This we performed
in March, 1843, with the co-operation of Schroder-Devrient, just
before her temporary departure from Dresden. Great importance was
attached to this production, because, at the same moment,
Meyerbeer was inaugurating his general-directorship in Berlin by
a performance of the same work. Indeed, it was in Berlin that the
extraordinary respect entertained for such a commemoration of
Gluck had its origin. I was told that Meyerbeer went to Rellstab
with the score of Armida in order to obtain hints as to its
correct interpretation.

As not long afterwards I also heard a strange story of two silver
candlesticks, wherewith the famous composer was said, to have
enlightened the no less famous critic when showing him the score
of his Feldlager in Schlesien, I decided to attach no great
importance to the instructions he might have received, but rather
to help myself by a careful handling of this difficult score, and
by introducing some softness into it through modulating the
variations in tone as much as possible. I had the gratification
later of receiving an exceedingly warm appreciation of my
rendering from Herr Eduard Devrient, a great Gluck connoisseur.
After hearing this opera as presented by us, and comparing it
with the Berlin performance, he heartily praised the tenderly
modulated character of our rendering of certain parts, which, he
said, had been given in Berlin with the coarsest bluntness. He
mentioned, as a striking instance of this, a brief chorus in C
major of male and female nymphs in the third act. By the
introduction of a more moderate tempo and very soft piano I had
tried to free this from the original coarseness with which
Devrient had heard it rendered in Berlin--presumably with
traditional fidelity. My most innocent device, and one which I
frequently adopted, for disguising the irritating stiffness or
the orchestral movement in the original, was a careful
modification of the Basso-continuo, which was taken
uninterruptedly in common time. This I felt obliged to remedy,
partly by legato playing, and partly by pizzicato.

Our management were lavish in their expenditure on externals,
especially decoration, and as a spectacular opera the piece drew
fairly large houses, thus earning me the reputation of being a
very suitable conductor for Gluck, and one who was in close
sympathy with him. This result was the more conspicuous from the
fact that Iphigenia in Tauris which is a far superior work, and
in which Devrient's interpretation of the title-role was
admirable had been performed to empty houses,

I had to live upon this reputation for a long time, as it often
happened that I was compelled to give inferior performances of
repertoire pieces, including Mozart's operas. The mediocrity of
these was particularly disappointing to those who, after my
success in Armida, had expected a great deal from my rendering of
these pieces, and were much disappointed in consequence. Even
sympathetic hearers sought to explain their disappointment on the
ground that I did not appreciate Mozart and could not understand
him. But they failed to realise how impossible it was for me, as
a mere conductor, to exercise any real influence on such
desultory performances, which were merely given as stopgaps, and
often without rehearsal. Indeed, in this matter I often found
myself in a false position, which, as I was powerless to remedy
it, contributed not a little to render unbearable both my new
office and my dependence upon the meanest motives of a paltry
theatrical routine, already overweighted with the cares of
business. This, in fact, became worse than I had expected, in
spite of my previous knowledge of the precariousness of such a
life. My colleague Reissiger, to whom from time to time I poured
out my woes regarding the scant attention given by the general
management to our demands for the maintenance of correct
representations in the realm of opera, comforted me by saying
that I, like himself, would sooner or later relinquish all these
fads and submit to the inevitable fate of a conductor. Thereupon
he proudly smote his stomach, and hoped that I might soon be able
to boast of one as round as his own.

I received further provocation for my growing dislike of these
jog-trot methods from a closer acquaintance with the spirit in
which even eminent conductors undertook the reproduction of our
masterpieces. During this first year Mendelssohn was invited to
conduct his St. Paul for one of the Palm Sunday concerts in the
Dresden chapel, which was famous at that time. The knowledge I
thus acquired of this work, under such favourable circumstances,
pleased me so much, that I made a fresh attempt to approach the
composer with sincere and friendly motives; but a remarkable
conversation which I had with him on the evening of this
performance quickly and strangely repelled my impulse. After the
oratorio Reissiger was to produce Beethoven's Eighth Symphony. I
had noticed in the preceding rehearsal that Keissiger had fallen
into the error of all the ordinary conductors of this work by
taking the tempo di minuetto of the third movement at a
meaningless waltz time, whereby not only does the whole piece
lose its imposing character, but the trio is rendered absolutely
ridiculous by the impossibility of the violoncello part being
interpreted at such a speed. I had called Reissiger's attention
to this defect, and he acquiesced in my opinion, promising to
take the part in question at true minuetto tempo. I related this
to Mendelssohn, when he was resting after his own performance in
the box beside me, listening to the symphony. He, too,
acknowledged that I was right, and thought that it ought to be
played as I said. And now the third movement began. Reissiger,
who, it is true, did not possess the needful power suddenly to
impress so momentous a change of time upon his orchestra with
success, followed the usual custom and took the tempo di minuetto
in the same old waltz time. Just as I was about to express my
anger, Mendelssohn gave me a friendly nod, as though he thought
that this was what I wanted, and that I had understood the music
in this way. I was so amazed by this complete absence of feeling
on the part of the famous musician, that I was struck dumb, and
thenceforth my own particular opinion of Mendelssohn gradually
matured, an opinion which was afterwards confirmed by R.
Schumann. The latter, in expressing the sincere pleasure he had
felt on listening to the time at which I had taken the first
movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, told me that he had been
compelled to hear it year after year taken by Mendelssohn at a
perfectly distracting speed.

Amid my yearning anxiety to exert some influence upon the spirit
in which our noblest masterpieces were executed, I had to
struggle against the profound dissatisfaction I felt with my
employment on the ordinary theatre repertoire. It was not until
Palm Sunday of the year 1844, just after my dispiriting
expedition to Hamburg, that my desire to conduct the Pastoral
Symphony was satisfied. But many faults still remained
unremedied, and for the removal of these I had to adopt indirect
methods which gave me much trouble. For instance, at these famous
concerts the arrangement of the orchestra, the members of which
were seated in a long, thin, semicircular row round the chorus of
singers, was so inconceivably stupid that it required the
explanation given by Reissiger to make me understand such folly.
He told me that all these arrangements dated from the time of the
late conductor Morlacchi, who, as an Italian composer of operas,
had no true realisation of the importance of the orchestra nor of
its necessities. When, therefore, I asked why they had permitted
him to meddle with things he did not understand, I learned that
the preference shown to this Italian, both by the court and the
general management, even in opposition to Carl Maria von Weber,
had always been absolute and brooked no contradiction. I was
warned that, even now, we should experience great difficulty in
ridding ourselves of these inherited vices, because the opinion
still prevailed in the highest circles that he must have
understood best what he was about.

Once more my childish memories of the eunuch Sassaroli flashed
through my mind, and I remembered the warning of Weber's widow as
to the significance of my succession to her husband's post of
conductor in Dresden. But, in spite of all this, our performance
of the Pastoral Symphony succeeded beyond expectation, and the
incomparable and wonderfully stimulating enjoyment, which I was
in future to derive from my intercourse with Beethoven's works,
now first enabled me to realise his prolific strength. Kockel
shared in this enjoyment with heartfelt sympathy; he supported me
with eye and ear at every rehearsal, always stood by my side, and
was at one with me both in his appreciation and his aims.

After this encouraging success I was to receive the gratification
of another triumph in the summer, which, although it was of no
particular moment from the musical point of view, was of great
social importance. The King of Saxony, towards whom, as I have
already said, I had felt warmly drawn when he was Prince
Friedrich, was expected home from a long visit to England. The
reports received of his stay there had greatly rejoiced my
patriotic soul. While this homely monarch, who shrank from all
pomp and noisy demonstration, was in England, it happened that
the Tsar Nicholas arrived quite unexpectedly on a visit to the
Queen. In his honour great festivities and military reviews were
held, in which our King, much against his will, was obliged to
participate, and he was consequently compelled to receive the
enthusiastic acclamations of the English crowd, who were most
demonstrative in showing their preference for him, as compared
with the unpopular Tsar. This preference was also reflected in
the newspapers, so that a flattering incense floated over from
England to our little Saxony which filled us all with a peculiar
pride in our King. While I was in this mood, which absorbed me
completely, I learned that preparations were being made in
Leipzig for a special welcome to the King on his return, which
was to be further dignified by a musical festival in the
directing of which Mendelssohn was to take part. I made inquiries
as to what was going to be done in Dresden, and learned that the
King did not propose to call there at all, but was going direct
to his summer residence at Pillnitz.

A moment's reflection showed me that this would only further my
desire of preparing a pleasant and hearty reception for his
Majesty. As I was a servant of the Crown, any attempt on my part
to render an act of homage in Dresden might have had the
appearance of an official parade which would not be admissible. I
seized the idea, therefore, of hurriedly collecting together all
who could either play or sing, so that we might perform a
Reception song hastily composed in honour of the event. The
obstacle to my plan was that my Director Luttichau was away at
one of his country seats. To come to an understanding with my
colleague Reissiger would, moreover, have involved delay, and
given the enterprise the very aspect of an official ovation which
I wished to avoid. As no time was to be lost, if anything worthy
of the occasion was to be done--as the King was due to arrive in
a few days--I availed myself of my position as conductor of the
Glee Club, and summoned all its singers and instrumentalists to
my aid. In addition to these, I invited the members of our
theatrical company, and also those of the orchestra, to join us.
This done, I drove quickly to Pillnitz to arrange matters with
the Lord Chamberlain, whom I found favourably disposed towards my
project. The only leisure I could snatch for composing the verses
of my song and setting them to music was during the rapid drive
there and back, for by the time I reached home I had to have
every thing ready for the copyist and lithographer. The agreeable
sensation of rushing through the warm summer air and lovely
country, coupled with the sincere affection with which I was
inspired for our German Prince, and which had prompted my effort,
elated me and worked me up to a high pitch of tension, in which I
now formed a clear conception of the lyrical outlines of the
'Tannhauser March,' which first saw the light of day on the
occasion of this royal welcome. I soon afterwards developed this
theme, and thus produced the march which became the most popular
of the melodies I had hitherto composed.

On the next day it had to be tried over with a hundred and twenty
instrumentalists and three hundred singers. I had taken the
liberty of inviting them to meet me on the stage of the Court
Theatre, where everything went off capitally. Every one was
delighted, and I not the least so, when a messenger arrived from
the director, who had just returned to town, requesting an
immediate interview. Littichau was enraged beyond measure at my
high-handed proceedings in this matter, of which he had been
informed by our good friend Reissiger. If his baronial coronet
had been on his head during this interview, it would assuredly
have tumbled off. The fact that I should have conducted my
negotiations in person with the court officials, and could report
that my endeavours had met with extraordinarily prompt success,
aroused his deepest fury, for the chief importance of his own
position consisted in always representing everything which had to
be obtained by these means as surrounded by the greatest
obstacles, and hedged in by the strictest etiquette. I offered to
cancel everything, but that only embarrassed him the more. I
thereupon asked him what he wanted me to do, if the plan was
still to be carried out. On this point he seemed uncertain, but
thought I had shown a great lack of fellow-feeling in having not
only ignored him, but Reissiger as well. I answered that I was
perfectly ready to hand over my composition and the conducting of
the piece to Reissiger. But he could not swallow this, as he
really had an exceedingly poor opinion of Reissiger, of which I
was very well aware. His real grievance was that I had arranged
the whole business with the Lord Chamberlain, Herr von
Reizenstein, who was his personal enemy, and he added that I
could form no conception of the rudeness he had been obliged to
endure from the hands of this official. This outburst of
confidence made it easier for me to exhibit an almost sincere
emotion, to which he responded by a shrug of the shoulders,
meaning that he must resign himself to a disagreeable necessity.

But my project was even more seriously threatened by the wretched
weather than by this storm with the director; for it rained all
day in torrents. If it lasted, which it seemed only too likely to
do, I could hardly start on the special boat at five o'clock in
the morning, as proposed, with my hundreds of helpers, to give an
early morning concert at Pillnitz, two hours away. I anticipated
such a disaster with genuine dismay. But Rockel consoled me by
saying that I could rely upon it that we should have glorious
weather the next day; for I was lucky! This belief in my luck has
followed me ever since, even down to my latest days; and amid the
great misfortunes which have so often hampered my enterprises, I
have felt as if this statement were a wicked insult to fate. But
this time, at least, my friend was right; the 12th of August,
1844 was from sunrise till late at night the most perfect summer
day that I can remember in my whole life. The sensation of
blissful content with which I saw my light-hearted legion of
gaily dressed bandsmen and singers gathering through the
auspicious morning mists on board our steamer, swelled my breast
with a fervent faith in my lucky star.

By my friendly impetuosity I had succeeded in overcoming
Reissiger's smouldering resentment, and had persuaded him to
share the honour of our undertaking by conducting the performance
of my composition himself. When we arrived at the spot,
everything went off splendidly. The King and royal family were
visibly touched, and in the evil times that followed the Queen of
Saxony spoke of this occasion, I am told, with peculiar emotion,
as the fairest day of her life. After Reissiger had wielded his
baton with great dignity, and I had sung with the tenors in the
choir, we two conductors were summoned to the presence of the
royal family. The King warmly expressed his thanks, while the
Queen paid us the high compliment of saying that I composed very
well and that Reissiger conducted very well. His Majesty asked us
to repeat the last three stanzas only, as, owing to a painful
ulcerated tooth, he could not remain much longer out of doors. I
rapidly devised a combined evolution, the remarkably successful
execution of which I am very proud, even to this day. I had the
entire song repeated, but, in accordance with the King's wish,
only one verse was sung in our original crescent formation. At
the beginning of the second verse I made my four hundred
undisciplined bandsmen and singers file off in a march through
the garden, which, as they gradually receded, was so arranged
that the final notes could only reach the royal ear as an echoing
dream-song. Thanks to my unexampled activity and ever-present
help, this retreat was so steadily carried out that not the
slightest faltering was perceptible either in time or delivery,
and the whole might have been taken for a carefully rehearsed
theatrical manoeuvre. On reaching the castle court we found that,
by the Queen's kindly forethought, an ample breakfast had been
provided for our party on the lawn, where the tables were already
spread. We often saw our royal hostess herself busily supervising
the attendants, or moving with excited delight about the windows
and corridors of the castle. Every eye beamed rapture to my soul,
as the successful author of the general happiness, and I almost
felt amid the glories of that day as though the millennium had
been proclaimed. After roaming in a body through the lovely
grounds of the castle, and not omitting to pay a visit to the
Keppgrund which had been so dear to me in my youth, we returned
late at night, and in the highest spirits, to Dresden.

Next morning I was again summoned to the presence of the
director. But a change had come over him during the night.

As I began to offer my apologies for the anxiety I had caused
him, the tall thin man, with the hard dry face, seized me by the
hand and addressed me with a rapturous expression, which I am
sure no one else ever saw on his face. He told me to say no more
about these anxieties. I was a great man, and soon no one would
know anything about him, whereas I should be universally admired
and loved. I was deeply moved, and wished only to express my
embarrassment at so unexpected an outburst, when he kindly
interrupted me and sought an escape from his own emotion in good-
humoured confidences. He referred, with a smile, to the self-
denial which had yielded the place of honour on so extraordinary
an occasion to an undeserving man like Reissiger. When I assured
him that this act had afforded me the liveliest satisfaction, and
that I had myself persuaded my colleague to take the baton, he
confessed that at last he began to understand me, but failed
altogether to comprehend how the other could accept a position to
which he had no right.

Luttichau's altered attitude towards me was such that for some
time our intercourse on matters of business assumed an almost
confidential tone. But, unfortunately, in course of time things
changed for the worse, so that our relationship became one of
open enmity; nevertheless, a certain peculiar tenderness towards
me on the part of this singular man was always clearly
perceptible. Indeed, I might almost say that much of his
subsequent abuse of me sounded more like the strangely perverted
plaints of a love that met with no response.

For my holiday this year I went, early in September, to Fischer's
vineyard, near Loschwitz, not far from the famous Firidlater
vineyard, where, somewhat late in the year, I rented a summer
residence. Where under the kindly and strengthening stimulus of
six week of open-air life, I composed my music for the second act
of Tannhauser, which I completed by the 15th of October. During
this period a performance of Rienzi was given before an audience
of no ordinary importance. For this event I went up to town.
Spontini, Meyerbeer, and General Lwoff, the composer of the
Russian National Anthem, were seated together in a stage box. I
sought no opportunity of learning the impression made by my opera
upon these learned judges and magnates of the musical world. It
was enough for me to have the complacent satisfaction of knowing
that they had heard my oft-repeated work performed before a
crowded house and amid overwhelming applause. I was delighted at
the close of the opera to have my little dog Peps, which had run
after me all the way from the country, brought to me; and without
waiting to greet the European celebrities, I drove off with it at
once to our quiet vineyard, where Minna was greatly relieved to
recover her little pet, which for hours she had believed to be

Here I also received a visit from Werder, the man whose
friendship I had made in Berlin under such dramatic
circumstances. But this time he appeared in ordinary human guise,
beneath the kindly light of heaven, by which we disputed in a
friendly way concerning the true worth of the Fliegender
Hollander, my mind having somewhat turned against this work since
Tannhauser had got into my head. It certainly seemed odd to find
myself contradicted on this point by my friend, and to receive
instruction from him on the significance of my own work.

When we returned to our winter quarters I tried to avoid allowing
so lengthy an interval to elapse between the composition of the
second and third acts as had separated that of the first and
second. In spite of many absorbing engagements I succeeded in my
aim. By carefully cultivating a habit of taking solitary walks,
and thanks to their soothing influence over me, I managed to
finish the music of Act iii. by the 29th of December, that is to
say, before the end of the year.

During this period my time was otherwise very seriously occupied
by a visit paid us by Spontini with reference to a proposed
presentation of his Vestalin, the preparation for which had just
begun. The singular episodes and characteristic features of the
intercourse which I thus gained with this eminent and hoary-
headed master are still so vividly imprinted on my memory that
they seem worthy of a place in this record.

Since, with the co-operation of Schroder-Devrient, we could, on
the whole, rely upon an admirable presentation of the opera, I
had inspired Luttichau with the idea of inviting Spontini to
undertake the personal superintendence of his justly famous work.
He had just left Berlin for ever, after enduring great
humiliation there, and such an invitation at this moment would be
a well-timed proof of respect. This was accordingly sent, and as
I had myself been entrusted with the conductorship of the opera,
I was given the singular task of deciding this point with the
master. My letter, it appears, although written in French,
inspired him with a high opinion of my zeal for the enterprise,
and in a gracious reply he informed me what his special wishes
were regarding the arrangements to be made for his collaboration.
As far as the vocalists were concerned, and seeing that a
Schroder-Devrient was among the number, he frankly expressed his
satisfaction. As for chorus and ballet, he took it for granted
that nothing would be lacking to the dignity of the performance;
and finally, as regarded the orchestra, he expected that this
also would be sure to please him, as he presumed it contained the
necessary complement of excellent instruments which, to use his
own words, 'he hoped would furnish the performance with twelve
good contrabass!' (le tout garni de douze bonnes contre-basses).
This phrase bowled me over, for the proportion thus bluntly
stated in figures gave me so logical a conception of his exalted
expectations, that I hurried away at once to the director to warn
him that the enterprise on which we had embarked would not, after
all, prove as easy as we thought. His alarm was great, and he
said that some plan must at once be devised for breaking off the

When Schroder-Devrient heard of our dilemma, knowing Spontini
well, she laughed as though she would never stop at the ingenuous
impudence with which we had issued our invitation. A trifling
indisposition from which she then suffered provided a reasonable
excuse for a delay, more or less prolonged, and this she
generously placed at our disposal. Spontini had, in fact, urged
us to use all possible despatch in the execution of our project,
for, as he was impatiently awaited in Paris, he could spare us
but little time. It fell to my lot to weave the tissue of
innocent deceptions by which we hoped to divert the master from a
definite acceptance of our invitation. Now we could breathe
again, and duly began rehearsing. But on the very day before we
proposed to hold our full-dress rehearsal at our leisure, lo and
behold! about noon a carriage drove up to my door, in which, clad
in a long blue coat of pilot-cloth, sat no other than the haughty
master himself, whose manners resembled those of a Spanish
grandee. All unattended and greatly excited, he entered my room,
showed me my letters, and proved from our correspondence that the
invitation had not been declined, but that he had in all points
accurately complied with our wishes. Forgetting for the moment
all the possible embarrassments which might arise, in my genuine
delight at beholding the wonderful man before me, and hearing his
work conducted by himself, I at once undertook to do everything I
possibly could to meet his desires. This declaration I made with
the utmost sincerity of zeal. He smiled with almost childlike
kindliness on hearing me, and I at once begged him to conduct the
rehearsal arranged for the morrow. He thereupon grew suddenly
thoughtful, and began to weigh the numerous disadvantages of such
an action on his part. So acute did his agitation become that he
had the greatest difficulty in expressing himself clearly on any
point, and I found it no easy matter to inquire what arrangements
on our part would persuade him to undertake the morrow's
rehearsal. After a moment's reflection he asked what sort of
baton I was accustomed to use when conducting. With my hands I
indicated the approximate length and thickness of a medium-sized
wooden rod, such as our choir-attendant was in the habit of
supplying, freshly covered with white paper. He sighed, and asked
if I thought it possible to procure him by to-morrow a baton of
black ebony, whose very respectable length and thickness he
indicated by a gesture, and on each end of which a fairly large
knob of ivory was to be affixed. I promised to have one prepared
for the next rehearsal, which should at least be similar in
appearance to what he desired, and another of the specified
materials in time for the actual performance. Visibly relieved,
he then passed his hand over his brow, and granted me permission
to announce his consent to conduct on the following day. After
once more strongly enforcing his instructions as to the baton, he
went back to his hotel.

I seemed to be moving in a dream, and hastened in a whirl-wind of
excitement to publish the news of what had happened and was to be
expected. We were fairly trapped. Schroder-Devrient offered to
become our scapegoat, while I entered into precise details with
the theatre carpenter concerning the baton. This turned out so
far correct that it possessed the requisite length and breadth,
was black in its colour, and had two large white knobs. Then came
the fateful rehearsal. Spontini was evidently ill at ease on his
seat in the orchestra. First of all he wished to have the oboists
placed behind him. As this partial change of position just at
that moment would have caused much confusion in the disposition
of the orchestra, I promised to effect the alteration after the
rehearsal. He said no more, and took up his baton. In a moment I
understood why he attached such importance to its form and size.
He held it, not as other conductors do, by the end, but gripped
it about the middle with his clenched fist, waving it so as to
make it evident that he wielded his baton like a field-marshal's
staff, not for beating time, but for command.

Confusion arose in the very first scene, which was increased by
the fact that the master's instructions, both to orchestra and
singers, were rendered almost unintelligible by his confused use
of the German language. This much at least we were soon able to
grasp, that he was particularly anxious to disabuse us of the
idea that this was a full-dress rehearsal, and to show us that he
was set upon a thorough re-study of the opera from the very
beginning. Great, indeed, was the despair of my good old
chorus-master and stage manager, Fischer--who before had
enthusiastically advocated the invitation of Spontini--when he
recognised that the dislocation of our repertoire was now
inevitable. This feeling swelled by degrees to open anger, in the
blindness of which every fresh suggestion of Spontini's appeared
but frivolous fault-finding, to which he bluntly responded in the
coarsest German. After one of the choruses Spontini beckoned me
to his side and whispered: 'Mais savez-vous, vos choeurs ne
chantent pas mal'; whereupon Fischer, regarding this with
suspicion, shouted out to me in a rage: 'What does the old hog
want now?' and I had some trouble to pacify the speedily
converted enthusiast.

But our most serious delay arose, during the first act, through
the evolutions of a triumphal march. With the most vociferous
emphasis the master expressed intense dissatisfaction with the
apathetic demeanour of our populace during the procession of
vestal virgins. He was quite unaware of the fact that, in
obedience to our stage manager's instructions, they had fallen on
their knees upon the appearance of the priestesses; for he was so
excited, and withal so terribly short-sighted, that nothing which
appealed to the eye alone was perceptible to his senses. What he
demanded was that the Roman army should manifest its devout
respect in more drastic fashion by flinging themselves as one man
to the ground, and marking this by delivering a crashing blow of
their spears on their shields. Endless attempts were made, but
some one always clattered either too soon or too late. Then he
repeated the action himself several times with his baton on the
desk, but all to no purpose; the crash was not sufficiently sharp
and emphatic. This reminded me of the impression made upon me
some years before in Berlin by the wonderful precision and almost
alarming effect with which I had seen similar evolutions carried
out in the play of Ferdinand Cortez, and I realized that it would
require an immediate and tedious accentuation of our customary
softness of action in such maneouvres before we could meet the
fastidious master's requirements. At the end of the first act
Spontini went on the stage himself, in order to give a detailed
explanation of his reasons for wishing to defer his opera for a
considerable time, so as to prepare by multitudinous rehearsals
for its production in accordance with his taste. He expected to
find the actors of the Dresden Court Theatre gathered there to
hear him; but the company had already dispersed. Singers and
stage manager had hastily scattered in every direction to give
vent, each in his own fashion, to the misery of the situation.
None but the workmen, lamp-cleaners, and a few of the chorus
gathered in a semicircle around Spontini, in order to have a look
at that remarkable man, as he held forth with wonderful effect on
the requirements of true theatrical art. Turning towards the
dismal scene, I gently and respectfully pointed out to Spontini
the uselessness of his declamation, and promised that everything
should eventually be done precisely as he desired.

Finally, I succeeded in extricating him from the undignified
position in which, to my horror, he had been placed, by telling
him that Herr Eduard Devrient, who had seen the Vestalin in
Berlin, and carried every detail of the performance in his mind,
should personally drill our chorus and supers into a becoming
solemnity during the reception of the vestals. This pacified him,
and we proceeded to settle on a plan for a series of rehearsals
according to his wishes. But, in spite of all this, I was the
only person to whom this strange turn of affairs was not
unwelcome; for through the burlesque extravagances of Spontini,
and notwithstanding his extraordinary eccentricities, which,
however, I learned in time to understand, I could perceive the
miraculous energy with which he pursued and attained an ideal of
theatrical art such as in our days had become almost unknown.

We began, therefore, with a pianoforte rehearsal, at which the
master made a point of telling the singers what he wanted. He did
not tell us anything new, however, for he said little about the
details of the rendering; on the other hand, he expatiated upon
the general interpretation, and I noticed that in doing this, he
had accustomed himself to make the most decided allowances for
the great singers, especially Schroder-Devrient and Tichatschek.
The only thing he did was to forbid the latter to use the word
Braut (bride) with which Licinius had to address Julia in the
German translation; this word sounded horrible in his ears, and
he could not understand how anybody could set such a vulgar sound
as that to music. He gave a long lecture, however, to the
somewhat coarse and less talented singer who took the part of the
high-priest, and explained to him how to understand and interpret
this character from the dialogue (in recitative) between him and
Haruspex. He told him that he must understand that the whole
thing was based upon priestcraft and superstition. Pontifex must
make it clear that he does not fear his antagonist at the head of
the Roman army, because, should the worst come to the worst, he
has his machines ready, which, if necessary, will miraculously
rekindle the dead fire of Vesta. In this way, even though Julia
should escape the sacrifice, the power of the priesthood would
still be unassailable.

During one of the rehearsals I asked Spontini why he, who, as a
rule, made such very effective use of the trombone, should have
left it entirely out in the magnificent triumphal march of the
first act. Very much astonished he asked: 'Est-ce que je n'ai pas
de trombones?' I showed him the printed score, and he then asked
me to add the trombones to the march, so that, if possible, they
might be used at the next rehearsal. He also said: 'J'ai entendu
dans votre Rienzi un instrument, que vous appelez Basse-tuba; je
ne veux pas bannir cet instrument de l'orchestre: faites m'en une
partie pour la Vestale.' It gave me great pleasure to perform
this task for him with all the care and good judgment I could
dispose of. When at the rehearsal he heard the effect for the
first time, he threw me a really grateful glance, and so much
appreciated the really simple additions I had made to his score,
that a little later on he wrote me a very friendly letter from
Paris in which he asked me kindly to send him the extra
instrumental parts I had prepared for him. His pride would not
allow him, however, to ask outright for something for which I
alone had been responsible, so he wrote: 'Envoyez-moi une
partition des trombones pour la marche triomphale et de la Basse-
tuba telle qu'elle a ete executee sous ma direction a Dresde.'
Apart from this, I also showed how greatly I respected him, in
the eagerness with which, at his special request, I regrouped all
the instruments in the orchestra. He was forced to this request
more by habit than by principle, and how very important it seemed
to him not to make the slightest change in his customary
arrangements, was proved to me when he explained his method of
conducting. He conducted the orchestra, so he said, only with his
eyes: 'My left eye is the first violin, my right eye the second,
and if the eye is to have power, one must not wear glasses (as so
many bad conductors do), even if one is short-sighted. I,' he
admitted confidentially, 'cannot see twelve inches in front of
me, but all the same I can make them play as I want, merely by
fixing them with my eye.' In some respects the arbitrary way in
which he used to arrange his orchestra was really very
irrational. From his old days in Paris he had retained the habit
of placing the two oboists immediately behind him, and although
this was a fad which owed its origin to a mere accident, it was
one to which he always adhered. The consequence was that these
players had to avert the mouthpiece of their instruments from the
audience, and our excellent oboist was so angry about this
arrangement, that it was only by dint of great diplomacy that I
succeeded in pacifying him.

Apart from this, Spontini's method was based upon the absolutely
correct system (which even at the present time is misunderstood
by some German orchestras) of spreading the string quartette over
the whole orchestra. This system further consisted in preventing
the brass and percussion instruments from culminating in one
point (and drowning each other) by dividing them on both sides,
and by placing the more delicate wind instruments at a judicious
distance from each other, thus forming a chain between the
violins. Even some great and celebrated orchestras of the present
day still retain the custom of dividing the mass of instruments
into two halves, the string and the wind instruments, an
arrangement that denotes roughness and a lack of understanding of
the sound of the orchestra, which ought to blend harmoniously and
be well balanced.

I was very glad to have the chance of introducing this excellent
improvement in Dresden, for now that Spontini himself had
initiated it, it was an easy matter to get the King's command to
let the alteration stand. Nothing remained after Spontini's
departure but to modify and correct certain eccentricities and
arbitrary features in his arrangements; and from that moment I
attained a high level of success with my orchestra.

With all the peculiarities he showed at rehearsals, this
exceptional man fascinated both musicians and singers to such an
extent that the production attracted quite an unusual amount of
attention. Very characteristic was the energy with which he
insisted on exceptionally sharp rhythmic accents; through his
association with the Berlin orchestra he had acquired the habit
of marking the note that he wished to be brought out with the
word diese (this), which at first was quite incomprehensible to
me. The great singer Tichatschek, who had a positive genius for
rhythm, was highly pleased by this; for he also had acquired the
habit of compelling the chorus to great precision in very
important entries, and maintained that if one only accentuated
the first note properly, the rest followed as a matter of course.
On the whole, therefore, a spirit of devotion to the master
gradually pervaded the orchestra; the violas alone bore him a
grudge for a while, and for this reason. In the accompaniment of
the lugubrious cantilena of Julia at the end of the second act,
he would not put up with the way in which the violas played the
horribly sentimental accompaniment. Suddenly turning towards them
he called in a sepulchral tone, 'Are the violas dying?' The two
pale and incurably melancholy old men who held on tenaciously to
their posts in the orchestra, notwithstanding their right to a
pension, stared at Spontini with real fright, reading a threat in
his words, and I had to explain Spontini's wish in sober language
in order to call them back to life.

On the stage Herr Eduard Devrient helped very materially in
bringing about wonderfully distinct ensembles; he also knew how
to gratify a certain wish of Spontini's, which threw us all into
tremendous confusion. In accordance with the cuts adopted by all
the German theatres, we too ended the opera with the fiery duet,
supported by the chorus, between Licinius and Julia after their
rescue. The master, however, insisted on adding a lively chorus
and ballet to the finale, according to the antiquated method of
ending common to French opera seria. He was absolutely against
finishing his work with a dismal churchyard episode; consequently
the whole scene had to be altered. Venus was to shine resplendent
in a rose bower, and the long-suffering lovers were to be wedded
at her altar, amid lively dancing and singing, by rose-bedecked
priests and priestesses. We performed it like this, but unluckily
not with the success we had all hoped for.

In the course of the production, which was proceeding with
wonderful accuracy and verve, we came across a difficulty with
regard to the principal part for which none of us had been
prepared. Our great Schroder-Devrient was obviously no longer of
an age to give the desired effect as the youngest of the vestal
virgins; she had acquired matronly contours, and her age was
moreover accentuated by the extremely girlish-looking high-
priestess with whom she had to act, and whose youth it was
difficult to dissimulate. This was my niece, Johanna Wagner, who,
because of her marvellous voice and great talent as an actress,
made every one in the audience long to see the parts of the two
women reversed. Schroder-Devrient, who was well aware of this
fact, tried by every effective means in her power to overcome her
most difficult position; this effort, however, resulted not
infrequently in great exaggeration and straining of the voice,
and in one very important place her part was sadly overacted.
When, after the great trio in the second act, she had to gasp the
words, 'er ist frei' ('he is free'), and to move away from her
rescued lover towards the front of the stage, she made the
mistake of speaking the words instead of singing them.

She had often proved the effect of a decisive word uttered with
an exaggerated and yet careful imitation of the ordinary accents
of the spoken language, by exciting the audience's wildest
enthusiasm when she almost whispered the words, 'Noch einen
Schritt und du bist todt!' ('Just one more step and thou art
dead!') in Fidelia. This terrific effect, which I too had felt,
was produced by the shock--like unto the blow of an executioner's
axe--which I received on suddenly coming down from the ideal
sphere to which music itself can exalt the most awful situations,
to the naked surface of dreadful reality. This sensation was due
simply to the knowledge of the utmost height of the sublime, and
the memory of the impression I received led me to call that
particular moment the moment of lightning; for it was as if two
different worlds that meet, and yet are divided, were suddenly
illumined and revealed as by a flash. Thoroughly to understand
such a moment, and not to treat it wrongly, was the whole secret,
and this I fully realised on that day from the absolute failure
on the great singer's part to produce the right effect. The
toneless, hoarse way in which she uttered the words was like
throwing cold water over the audience and myself, and not one of
those present could see any more in the incident than a botched
theatrical effect. It is possible that the public had expected
too much, for they were curious to see Spontini conduct, and the
prices had been raised accordingly; it may also have been that
the whole style of the work, with its antiquated French plot,
seemed rather obsolete in spite of the majestic beauty, of the
music; or, perhaps, the very tame end left the same cold
impression as Devrient's dramatic failure. In any case there was
no real enthusiasm, and the only sign of approval was a rather
lukewarm call for the celebrated master, who, covered with
numerous decorations, made a sad impression on me as he bowed his
thanks to the audience for their very moderate applause.

Nobody was less blind to the somewhat disappointing result than
Spontini himself. He decided, however, to defy fate, and to this
end had recourse to means which he had often employed in Berlin,
in order to get packed houses for his operatic productions. Thus,
he always gave Sunday performances, for experience had taught him
that he could always have a full house on that day. As the next
Sunday on which his Vestalin was to be produced was still some
time ahead, his prolonged stay gave us several more chances of
enjoying his interesting company. I have such a vivid
recollection of the hours spent with him either at Madame
Devrient's or at my house, that I shall be pleased to quote a few

I shall never forget a dinner at Schroder-Devrient's house at
which we had a charming conversation with Spontini and his wife
(a sister of the celebrated pianoforte maker, Erard). Spontini
generally listened deferentially to what the others had to say,
his attitude being that of a man who expected to be asked for his
opinion. When he did speak in the end it was with a sort of
rhetorical solemnity, in sharp and precise sentences, categorical
and well accentuated, which forbade contradiction from the
outset. Herr Ferdinand Hiller was among the invited guests, and
he began to speak about Liszt. After some time Spontini gave his
opinion in his characteristic fashion, but in a spirit which
showed only too clearly, that from the heights of his Berlin
throne he had not judged the affairs of the world either with
impartiality or goodwill. While he was laying down the law in
this style he could not brook any interruption. When, therefore,
during the dessert, the general conversation became livelier, and
Madame Devrient happened to laugh with her neighbour at the table
in the middle of a long harangue of Spontini's, he shot an
extremely angry glance at his wife. Madame Devrient apologised
for her at once by saying that it was she (Madame Devrient) who
had been laughing about some lines on a bonbonniere, whereupon
Spontini retorted: 'Pourtant je suis sur que c'est ma femme qui a
suscite ce rire; je ne veux pas que l'on rie devant moi, je ne
rie jamais moi, j'aime le serieux.' In spite of that he sometimes
succeeded in being jovial. For instance, it amused him to set us
all wondering at the way in which he crunched enormous lumps of
sugar with his marvellous teeth. After dinner, when we drew our
chairs closer together, he usually became very excited.

As far as he was capable of affection he seemed really to like
me; he declared openly that he loved me, and said that he would
prove this best by trying to keep me from the misfortune of
proceeding in my career as a dramatic composer. He said he knew
it would be difficult to convince me of the value of this
friendly service, but as he felt it his sacred duty to look after
my happiness in this particular line, he was prepared to stay in
Dresden for another half-year, during which period he suggested
that we should produce his other operas, and especially Agnes von
Hohenstaufen, under his direction. To explain his views about the
fatal mistake of trying to succeed as a dramatic composer 'after
Spontini,' he began by praising me in these terms: 'Quand j'ai
entendu votre Rienzi, j'ai dit, c'est un homme de genie, mais
deja il a plus fait qu'il ne peut faire.' In order to show me
what he meant by this paradox, he proceeded as follows: 'Apres
Gluck c'est moi qui ai fait la grande revolution avec la Vestale;
j'ai introduit le Vorhalt de la sexte' (the suspension of the
sixth) 'dans l'harmonie et la grosse caisse dans l'orchestre;
avec Cortez j'ai fait un pas de plus en avant; puis j'ai fait
trois pas avec Olympic. Nurmahal, Alcidor et tout ce que j'ai
fait dans les premiers temps a Berlin, je vous les livre,
c'etaient des oeuvres occasionnelles; mais depuis j'ai fait cent
pas en avant avec Agnes de Hohenstaufen, ou j'ai imagine un
emploi de l'orchestre remplacant parfaitement l'orgue.'

Since then he had tried his hand at a new work, Les Atheniennes;
the Crown Prince (now King of Prussia [Footnote: William the
First.]) had urged him to finish this work, and to testify to the
truth of his words, he took several letters which he had received
from this monarch out of his pocket-book, and handed them to us
for inspection. Not until he had insisted upon our reading them
carefully through did he continue by saying that, in spite of
this flattering invitation, he had given up the idea of setting
this excellent subject to music, because he felt sure he could
never surpass his Agnes von Hohenstaufen, nor invent anything
new. In conclusion he said: 'Or, comment voulez-vous que
quiconque puisse inventer quelque chose de nouveau, moi Spontini
declarant ne pouvoir en aucune facon surpasser mes oeuvres
precedentes, d'autre part etant avise que depuis la Vestale il
n'a point ete ecrit une note qui ne fut volee de mes partitions.'

To prove that this assertion was not merely talk, but that it was
based on scientific investigations, he quoted his wife, who was
supposed to have read with him an elaborate discussion on the
subject by a celebrated member of the French academy, and he
added that the essay in question had, for some mysterious reason,
never been printed. In this very important and scientific
treatise it was proved that without Spontini's invention of the
suspension of the sixth in his Vestalin, the whole of modern
melody would not have existed, and that any and every form of
melody that had been used since had been borrowed from his
compositions. I was thunderstruck, but hoped all the same to
bring the inexorable master to a better frame of mind, especially
in regard to certain reservations he had made. I acknowledged
that the academician in question was right in many ways, but I
asked him if he did not believe that if somebody brought him a
dramatic poem full of an absolutely new and hitherto unknown
spirit, it would not inspire him to invent new musical
combinations? With a ring of compassion in his voice, he replied
that my question was wholly mistaken; in what would the novelty
consist? 'Dans la Vestale j'ai compose un sujet romain, dans
Ferdinand Cortez un sujet espagnol-mexicain, dans Olympic un
sujet greco-macedonien, enfin dans Agnes de Hohenstaufen un sujet
allemand: tout le reste ne vaut rien!' He hoped that I was not
thinking of the so-called romantic style a la Freischutz? With
such childish stuff no serious man could have anything to do; for
art was a serious thing, and he had exhausted serious art! And,
after all, what nation could produce the composer who could
surpass HIM? Surely not the Italians, whom he characterised
simply as cochons; certainly not the French, who had only
imitated the Italians; nor the Germans, who would never get
beyond their childhood in music, and who, if they had ever
possessed any talent, had had it all spoilt for them by the Jews?
'Oh, croyez-moi, il y avait de l'espoir pour l'Allemagne lorsque
j'etais empereur de la musique a Berlin; mais depuis que le roi
de Prusse a livre sa musique au desordre occasionne par les deux
juifs errants qu'il a attires, tout espoir est perdu.'

Our charming hostess now thought it time to change the subject,
and to divert the master's thoughts. The theatre was situated
quite near to her house; she invited him to go across with our
friend Heine, who was amongst the guests, and to have a look at
Antigone, which was then being given, and which was sure to
interest him on account of the antique equipment of the stage,
which had been carried out according to Semper's excellent plans.
At first he wanted to refuse, on the plea that he had seen all
this so much better when his Olympia had been performed. After a
while he consented; but in a very short time he returned to his
original opinion, and, smiling scornfully, assured us that he had
seen and heard enough to strengthen him in his verdict. Heine
told us that shortly after he and Spontini had taken their seats
in the almost empty amphitheatre, and as soon as the Bacchus
chorus had started, Spontini had said to him: 'C'est de la
Berliner Sing-Academie, allons-nous-en.' Through an open door a
streak of light had fallen on a lonely figure behind one of the
columns; Heine had recognised Mendelssohn, and concluded that he
had overheard Spontini's remark.

From the master's very excited conversations we soon realised
very distinctly that he intended to stay longer in Dresden, so as
to get all his operas performed. It was Schroder-Devrient's idea
to save Spontini, in his own interest, from the mortifying
disappointment of finding all his enthusiastic hopes in regard to
a second performance of Vestalin unfounded, and, if possible, to
prevent this second performance during his stay in Dresden. She
pretended to be ill, and the director requested me to inform
Spontini of the fact that his production would have to be
indefinitely postponed. This visit was so distasteful to me, that
I was glad to make it in Rockel's company. He was also a friend
of Spontini's, and his French was moreover much better than mine.
As we were quite prepared for a bad reception, we were really
frightened to enter. Imagine, therefore, our astonishment when we
found the master, who had already been informed of the news in a
letter from Devrient, in the very brightest spirits.

He told us that he had to leave immediately for Paris, and that
from there he was to travel to Rome, the Holy Father having
commanded him to come in order to receive the title of 'Count of
San Andrea.' Then he showed us a second document, in which the
King of Denmark was supposed to have raised him to the Danish
nobility. This meant, however, only that the title of 'Ritter' of
the 'Elephanten-Order' had been conferred upon him; and although
this was indeed a high honour, in speaking about it he only
mentioned the word 'Ritter' without referring to the particular
order, because this seemed to him too ordinary for a person of
his dignity. He was, however, childishly pleased over the affair,
and felt that he had been miraculously rescued from the narrow
sphere of his Dresden Vestalin production to find himself
suddenly transported into regions of glory, from which he looked
down upon the distressing 'opera' world with sublime self-

Meanwhile Rockel and I silently thanked the Holy Father and the
King of Denmark from the bottom of our hearts. We bode an
affectionate farewell to the strange master, and to cheer him I
promised him seriously to think over his friendly advice with
regard to my career as a composer of opera.

Later on I heard what Spontini had said about me, on hearing that
I had fled from Dresden for political reasons, and had sought
refuge in Switzerland. He thought that this was in consequence of
my share in a plot of high treason against the King of Saxony,
whom he looked upon as my benefactor, because I had been
nominated conductor of the royal orchestra, and he expressed his
opinion about me by ejaculating in tones of the deepest anguish:
'Quelle ingratitude!'

From Berlioz, who was at Spontini's deathbed until the end, I
heard that the master had struggled most determinedly against
death, and had cried repeatedly, 'Je ne veux pas mourir, je ne
veux pas mourir!' When Berlioz tried to comfort him by saying,
'Comment pouvez-vous penser mourir vous, mon maitre, qui etes
immortel!' Spontini retorted angrily, 'Ne faites pas de mauvaises
plaisanteries!' In spite of all the extraordinary experiences I
had had with him, the news of his death, which I received in
Zurich, touched me very deeply. Later on I expressed my feelings
towards him, and my opinion of him as an artist, in a somewhat
condensed form in the Eidgenossischen Zeitung, and in this
article the quality I extolled more particularly in him was that,
unlike Meyerbeer, who was then the rage, and the very aged
Rossini, he believed absolutely in himself and his art. All the
same, and somewhat to my disgust, I could not but see that this
belief in himself had deteriorated into a veritable superstition.

I do not remember in those days having gone deeply into my
feelings about Spontini's exceedingly strange individuality, nor
do I recollect having troubled to discover how far they were
consistent with the high opinion I formed of him after I had got
to know him more intimately. Obviously I had only seen the
caricature of the man, although the tendency towards such plainly
overweening self-confidence may, at all events, have manifested
itself earlier in life. At the same time, one could trace in all
this the influence of the decay of the musical and dramatic life
of the period, which Spontini, situated as he was in Berlin, was
well able to witness. The surprising fact that he saw his chief
merit in unessential details showed plainly that his judgment had
become childish; in my opinion this did not detract from the
great value of his works, however much he might exaggerate their
value. In a sense I could justify his boundless self-confidence,
which was principally the outcome of the comparison between
himself and the great composers who were now replacing him; for
in my heart of hearts I shared the contempt which he felt for
these artists, although I did not dare to say so openly. And thus
it came about that, in spite of his many somewhat absurd
idiosyncrasies, I learned during this meeting at Dresden to feel
a deep sympathy for this man, the like of whom I was never again
to meet.

My next experiences of important musical celebrities of this age
were of quite a different character. Amongst the more
distinguished of these was Heinrich Marschner, who, as a very
young man, had been nominated musical director of the Dresden
orchestra by Weber. After Weber's death he seemed to have hoped
that he would take his place entirely, and it was due less to the
fact that his talent was still unknown, than to his repellent
manner, that he was disappointed in his expectations. His wife,
however, suddenly came into some money, and this windfall enabled
him to devote all his energies to his work as composer of operas,
without being obliged to fill any fixed post.

During the wild days of my youth Marschner lived in Leipzig,
where his operas Der Vampir and Templer und Judin saw their first
appearance. My sister Rosalie had once taken me to him in order
to hear his opinion about me. He did not treat me uncivilly, but
my visit led to nothing. I was also present at the first night of
his opera Des Falkner's Braut, which however was not a success.
Then he went to Hanover. His opera Hans Heiling, which was
originally produced in Berlin, I heard for the first time in
Wurzburg; it showed vacillation in its tendency, and a decrease
in constructive power. After that he produced several other
operas, such as Das Schloss am Aetna and Der Babu, which never
became popular. He was always neglected by the management at
Dresden, as though they bore him some grudge, and only his
Templer was played at all often. My colleague, Reissiger, had to
conduct this opera, and as in his absence I always had to take
his place, it also fell to my lot on one occasion to direct a
performance of this work.

This was during the time that I worked at my Tannhauser. I
remember that, although I had often conducted this opera before
in Magdeburg, on this occasion the wild nature of the
instrumentation and its lack of mastership affected me to such an
extent that it literally made me ill, and as soon as he returned,
therefore, I implored Reissiger at any cost to resume the
leadership. On the other hand, immediately after my nomination I
had started on the production of Hans Heiling, but merely for the
sake of the artistic honour. The insufficient distribution of the
parts, however, a difficulty which in those days could not be
overcome, made a complete success impossible. In any case,
though, the whole spirit of the work seemed to be terribly old-

I now heard that Marschner had finished another opera called
Adolph von Nassau, and in a criticism of this work, of the
genuineness of which I was unable to judge, particular stress was
laid upon the 'patriotic and noble German atmosphere' of this new
creation. I did my best to make the Dresden theatre take the
initiative, and to urge Luttichau to secure this opera before it
was produced elsewhere. Marschner, who did not seem to have been
treated with particular consideration by the Hanoverian opera
authorities, accepted the invitation with great joy, sent his
score, and declared himself willing to come to Dresden for the
first performance. Luttichau, however, was not anxious to see him
take his place at the head of the orchestra; while I, also, was
of the opinion that the too frequent appearance of outside
conductors, even if it were for the purpose of conducting their
own works, would not only lead to confusion, but might also fail
to be as amusing and instructive as Spontini's visit had proved
to be. It was therefore decided that I should conduct the new
opera myself. And how I lived to regret it!

The score arrived: to a weak plot by Karl Golmick the composer of
the Templer had written such superficial music, that the
principal effect lay in a drinking song for a quartette, in which
the German Rhine and German wine played the usual stereotyped
part peculiar to such male quartettes. I lost all courage; but we
had to go on with it now, and all I could do was to try, by
maintaining a grave bearing, to make the singers take an interest
in their task; this, however, was not easy. To Tichatschek and
Mitterwurzer were assigned the two principal male parts; being
both eminently musical, they sang everything at first sight, and
after each number looked up at me as if to say, 'What do you
think of it all?' I maintained that it was good German music;
they must not allow themselves to get confused. But all they did
was to stare at each other in amazement, not knowing what to make
of me. Nevertheless, in the end they could not stand it any
longer, and when they saw that I still retained my gravity, they
burst into loud laughter, in which I could not help joining.

I now had to take them into my confidence, and make them promise
to follow my lead and pretend to be serious, for it was
impossible to give up the opera at this stage. A Viennese
'colorature' singer of the latest style--Madame Spatser
Gentiluomo--who came to us from Hanover, and on whose services
Marschner greatly relied, was rather taken with her part chiefly
because it gave her the chance of showing 'brilliancy.' And,
indeed, there was a finale in which my 'German master' had
actually tried to steal a march on Donizetti. The Princess had
been poisoned by a golden rose, a present from the wicked Bishop
of Mainz, and had become delirious. Adolph von Nassau, with the
knights of the German empire, swears vengeance, and, accompanied
by the chorus, pours out his feelings in a stretta of such
incredible vulgarity and amateurishness that Donizetti would have
thrown it at the head of any of his pupils who had dared to
compose such a thing. Marschner now arrived for the dress
rehearsal; he was very pleased, and, without compelling me to
falsehood, he gave me sufficient opportunities for exercising my
powers in the art of concealing my real thoughts. At all events I
must have succeeded fairly well, for he had every reason to think
himself considerately and kindly treated by me.

During the performance the public behaved very much as the
singers had done at the rehearsals. We had brought a still-born
child into the world. But Marschner was comforted by the fact
that his drinking quartette was encored. This was reminiscent of
one of Becker's songs: Sie sollen ihn nicht haben, den freien
deutschen Rhein ('They shall not have it, our free German
Rhine'). After the performance the composer was my guest at a
supper party at which, I am sorry to say, the singers, who had
had enough of it, would not attend. Herr Ferdinand Hiller had the
presence of mind to insist, in his toast to Marschner, that
'whatever one might say, all stress must be laid on the GERMAN
master and GERMAN art.' Strangely enough, Marschner himself
contradicted him by saying that there was something wrong with
German operatic compositions, and that one ought to consider the
singers and how to write more brilliantly for their voices than
he had succeeded in doing up to the present.

Highly gifted as Marschner was, there can be no doubt that the
decline of his genius was due partly to a tendency which even in
the ageing master himself, as he frankly admitted, was effecting
an important and most salutary change. In later years I met him
once more in Paris at the time of my memorable production of
Tannhauser. I did not feel inclined to renew the old relations,
for, to tell the truth, I wanted to spare myself the
unpleasantness of witnessing the consequences of his change of
views, of which we had seen the beginning in Dresden. I learned
that he was in a state of almost helpless childishness, and that
he was in the hands of a young and ambitious woman, who was
trying to make a last attempt at conquering Paris for him. Among
other puff paragraphs calculated to spread Marschner's glory, I
read one which said that the Parisians must not believe that I
(Wagner) was representative of German art; no--if only Marschner
were given a hearing, it would be discovered that he was beyond a
doubt better suited to the French taste than I could ever be.
Marschner died before his wife had succeeded in establishing this

Ferdinand Hiller, on the other hand, who was in Dresden, behaved
in a very charming and friendly manner, particularly at this
time. Meyerbeer also stayed in the same town from time to time;
precisely why, nobody knew. Once he had rented a little house for
the summer near the Pirnaischer Schlag, and under a pretty tree
in the garden of this place he had had a small piano installed,
whereon, in this idyllic retreat, he worked at his Feldlager in
Schlesien. He lived in great retirement, and I saw very little of
him. Ferdinand Hiller, on the contrary, took a commanding
position in the Dresden musical world in so far as this was not
already monopolised by the royal orchestra and its masters, and
for many years he worked hard for its success. Having a little
private capital, he established himself comfortably amongst us,
and was soon known as a delightful host, who kept a pleasant
house, which, thanks to his wife's influence, was frequented by a
numerous Polish colony. Frau Hiller was indeed an exceptional
Jewish woman of Polish origin, and she was perhaps all the more
exceptional seeing that she, in company with her husband, had
been baptized a Protestant in Italy. Hiller began his career in
Dresden with the production of his opera, Der Traum in der
Christnacht. Since the unheard-of fact that Rienzi had been able
to rouse the Dresden public to lasting enthusiasm, many an opera
composer had felt himself drawn towards our 'Florence on the
Elbe,' of which Laube once said that as soon as one entered it
one felt bound to apologise because one found so many good things
there which one promptly forgot the moment one departed.

The composer of Der Traum in der Christnacht looked upon this
work as a peculiarly 'German composition.' Hiller had set to
music a gruesome play by Raupach, Der Muller und sein Kind ('The
Miller and his Child'), in which father and daughter, within but
a short space of time, both die of consumption. He declared that
he had conceived the dialogue and the music of this opera in what
he called the 'popular style,' but this work met with the same
fate as that which, according to Liszt, befell all his
compositions. In spite of his undoubted musical merits, which
even Rossini acknowledged, and whether he gave them in French in
Paris or in Italian in Italy, it was his sad experience always to
see his operas fail. In Germany he had tried the Mendelssohnian
style, and had succeeded in composing an oratorio called Die
Zerstorung Jerusalems, which luckily was not taken notice of by
the moody theatre-going public, and which consequently received
the unassailable reputation of being 'a solid German work.' He
also took Mendelssohn's place as director of the Leipzig
Gewandhaus concerts when the latter was called to Berlin in the
capacity of general director. Hiller's evil fortune still pursued
him, however, and he was unable to retain his position, everybody
being given to understand that it was because his wife was not
sufficiently acknowledged as concert prima-donna. Mendelssohn
returned and made Hiller leave, and Hiller boasted of having
quarrelled with him.

Dresden and the success of my Rienzi now weighed so much upon his
mind that he naturally made another attempt to succeed as an
opera composer. Owing to his great energy, and to his position as
son of a rich banker (a special attraction even to the director
of a court theatre), it happened that he induced them to put
aside my poor friend Rockel's Farinelli (the production of which
had been promised him) in favour of his (Hiller's) own work, Der
Traum in der Christnacht. He was of the opinion that next to
Reissiger and myself, a man of greater musical reputation than
Rockel was needed. Luttichau, however, was quite content to have
Reissiger and myself as celebrities, particularly as we got on so
well together, and he remained deaf to Hiller's wishes. To me Der
Traum in der Christnacht was a great nuisance. I had to conduct
it a second time, and before an empty house. Hiller now saw that
he had been wrong in not taking my advice before, and in not
shortening the opera by one act and altering the end, and he now
fancied that he was doing me a great favour by at last declaring
himself ready to act on my suggestion in the event of another
performance of his opera being possible. I really managed to have
it played once more. This was, however, to be the last time, and
Hiller, who had read my book of Tannhauser, thought that I had a
great advantage over him in writing my own words. He therefore
made me promise to help him with the choice and writing of a
subject for his next opera.

Shortly afterwards Hiller was present at a performance of Rienzi,
which was again given before a crowded and enthusiastic house.
When, at the end of the second act, and after frantic recalls
from the audience, I left the orchestra in a great state of
excitement, Hiller, who was waiting for me in the passage, took
the opportunity of adding to his very hasty congratulations, 'Do
give my Traum once more!' I promised him laughingly to do this if
I had the chance, but I cannot remember whether it came off or
not. While he was waiting for the creation of an entirely new
plot for his next opera, Hiller devoted himself to the study of
chamber music, to which his large and well-furnished room lent
itself most admirably.

A beautiful and solemn event added to the seriousness of the mood
in which I finished the music to Tannhauser towards the end of
the year, and neutralised the more superficial impressions made
upon me by the stirring events above described. This was the
removal of the remains of Carl Maria von Weber from London to
Dresden in December, 1844. As I have already said, a committee
had for years been agitating for this removal. From information
given by a certain traveller, it had become known that the
insignificant coffin which contained Weber's ashes had been
disposed of in such a careless way in a remote corner of St.
Paul's, that it was feared it might soon become impossible to
identify it.

My energetic friend, Professor Lowe, whom I have already
mentioned, had availed himself of this information in order to
urge the Dresden Glee Club, which constituted his hobby, to take
the matter in hand. The concert of male singers arranged to this
end had been a fair success financially, and they now wanted to
induce the theatre management to make similar efforts, when
suddenly they met with serious opposition from this very quarter.
The management of the Dresden theatre told the committee that the
King had religious scruples with regard to disturbing the peace
of the dead. However much we felt inclined to doubt the
genuineness of these reasons, nothing could be done, and I was
next approached on the subject, in the hope that my influential
position might lend weight to my appeal. I entered into the
spirit of the enterprise with great fervour. I consented to be
made president; Herr Hofrat Schulz, director of the 'Antiken-
Cabinet,' who was a well-known authority on artistic matters, and
another gentleman, a Christian banker, were also elected members
of the committee, and the movement thus received fresh life.
Prospectuses were sent round, exhaustive plans were made, and
numerous meetings held. Here, again, I met with opposition on the
part of my chief, Luttichau; if he could have done so, he would
have forbidden me to move in the matter by making the most of the
King's scruples referred to above. But he had had a warning not
to pick a quarrel with me after his experience in the summer,
when, contrary to his expectations, the music written by me to
celebrate the King's arrival had found favour with the monarch.
As his antipathy to the proceedings was not so very serious,
Luttichau must have seen that even the direct opposition of his
Majesty could not have prevented the enterprise from being
carried out privately, and that, on the contrary, the court would
cut a sorry figure if the Royal Court Theatre (to which Weber
once belonged) should assume a hostile attitude. He therefore
tried in a would-be friendly way to make me desist from
furthering the cause, well knowing that, without me, the plan
would fail. He tried to convince me that it would be wrong to pay
this exaggerated honour to Weber's memory, whereas nobody thought
of removing the ashes of Morlacchi from Italy, although the
latter had given his services to the royal orchestra for a much
longer period than Weber had done. What would be the consequence?
By way of argument he said, 'Suppose Reissiger died on his
journey to some watering-place--his wife would then be as much
justified as was Frau von Weber (who had annoyed him quite enough
already) in expecting her husband's dead body to be brought home
with music and pomp.' I tried to calm him, and if I did not
succeed in making him see the difference between Reissiger and
Weber, I managed to make him understand that the affair must take
its course, as the Berlin Court Theatre had already announced a
benefit performance to support our undertaking.

Meyerbeer, to whom my committee had applied, was instrumental in
bringing this about, and a performance of Euryanthe was actually
given which yielded the handsome balance of six thousand marks. A
few theatres of lesser importance now followed our lead. The
Dresden Court Theatre, therefore, could not hold back any longer,
and as we now had a fairly large sum at the bank, we were able to
cover the expenses of the removal, as well as the cost of an
appropriate vault and monument; we even had a nucleus fund for a
statue of Weber, which we were to fight for later on. The elder
of the two sons of the immortal master travelled to London to
fetch the remains of his father. He brought them by boat down the
Elbe, and finally arrived at the Dresden landing-stage, from
whence they were to be conducted to German soil. This last
journey of the remains was to take place at night. A solemn
torchlight procession was to be formed, and I had undertaken to
see to the funeral music.

I arranged this from two motives out of Euryanthe, using that
part of the music in the overture which relates to the vision of
spirits. I introduced the Cavatina from Euryanthe--Hier dicht am
Quell ('Here near the source'), which I left unaltered, except
that I transposed it into B flat major, and I finished the whole,
as Weber finished his opera, by a return to the first sublime
motive. I had orchestrated this symphonic piece, which was well
suited to the purpose, for eight chosen wind instruments, and
notwithstanding the volume of sound, I had not forgotten softness
and delicacy of instrumentation. I substituted the gruesome
tremolo of the violas, which appears in that part of the overture
adapted by me, by twenty muffled drums, and as a whole attained
to such an exceedingly impressive effect, especially to us who
were full of thoughts of Weber, that, even in the theatre where
we rehearsed, Schroder-Devrient, who was present, and who had
been an intimate friend of Weber's, was deeply moved. I had never
carried out anything more in keeping with the character of the
subject; and the procession through the town was equally

As the very slow tempo, devoid of any strongly marked accents,
offered numerous difficulties, I had had the stage cleared for
the rehearsal, in order to command a sufficient space for the
musicians, once they had thoroughly practised the piece, to walk
round me in a circle playing all the while. Several of those who
witnessed the procession from their windows assured me that the
effect of the procession was indescribably and sublimely solemn.
After we had placed the coffin in the little mortuary chapel of
the Catholic cemetery in Friedrichstadt, where Madame Devrient
met it with a wreath of flowers, we performed, on the following
morning, the solemn ceremony of lowering it into the vault. Herr
Hofrat Schulz and myself, as presidents of the committee, were
allowed the honour of speaking by the graveside, and what
afforded me an appropriate subject for the few, somewhat
affecting, words which I had to pronounce, was the fact that,
shortly before the removal of Weber's remains, the second son of
the master, Alexander von Weber, had died. The poor mother had
been so terribly affected by the sudden death of this youth, so
full of life and health, that had we not been in the very midst
of our arrangements, we should have been compelled to abandon
them; for in this new loss the widow saw a judgment of God who,
in her opinion, looked upon the removal of the remains as an act
of sacrilege prompted by vanity. As the public seemed
particularly disposed to hold the same view, it fell to my lot to
set the nature of our undertaking in the proper light before the
eyes of the world. And this I so far succeeded in doing that, to
my satisfaction, I learned from all sides that my justification
of our action had received the most general acceptance.

On this occasion I had a strange experience with regard to
myself, when for the first time in my life I had to deliver a
solemn public speech. Since then I have always spoken
extemporarily; this time, however, as it was my first appearance
as an orator, I had written out my speech, and carefully learned
it by heart. As I was thoroughly under the influence of my
subject, I felt so sure of my memory that I never thought of
making any notes. Thanks to this omission, however, I made my
brother Albert very unhappy. He was standing near me at the
ceremony, and he told me afterwards that, in spite of being
deeply moved, he felt at one moment as if he could have sworn at
me for not having asked him to prompt me. It happened in this
way: I began my speech in a clear and full voice, but suddenly
the sound of my own words, and their particular intonation,
affected me to such an extent that, carried away as I was by my
own thoughts, I imagined I SAW as well as HEARD myself before the
breathless multitude. While I thus appeared objectively to myself
I remained in a sort of trance, during which I seemed to be
waiting for something to happen, and felt quite a different
person from the man who was supposed to be standing and speaking
there. It was neither nervousness nor absent-mindedness on my
part; only at the end of a certain sentence there was such a long
pause that those who saw me standing there must have wondered
what on earth to think of me. At last my own silence and the
stillness round me reminded me that I was not there to listen,
but to speak. I at once resumed my discourse, and I spoke with
such fluency to the very end that the celebrated actor, Emil
Devrient, assured me that, apart from the solemn service, he had
been deeply impressed simply from the standpoint of a dramatic

The ceremony concluded with a poem written and set to music by
myself, and, though it presented many difficulties for men's
voices, it was splendidly rendered by some of the best opera
singers. Luttichau, who was present, was now not only convinced
of the justice of the enterprise, but also strongly in favour of
it. I was deeply thankful that everything had succeeded so well,
and when Weber's widow, upon whom I called after the ceremony,
told me how profoundly she, too, had been moved, the only cloud
that still darkened my horizon was dispelled. In my youth I had
learned to love music through my admiration for Weber's genius,
and the news of his death was a terrible blow to me. To have, as
it were, come into contact with him again and after so many years
by this second funeral, was an event that stirred the very depths
of my being.

From all the particulars I have given concerning my intimacy with
the great masters who were my contemporaries, it is easy to see
at what sources I had been able to quench my thirst for
intellectual intercourse. It was not a very satisfactory outlook
to turn from Weber's grave to his living successors; but I had
still to find out how absolutely hopeless this was.

I spent the winter of 1844-5 partly in yielding to attractions
from outside, and partly in indulging in the deepest meditation.
By dint of great energy, and by getting up very early, even in
winter, I succeeded in completing my score to Tannhauser early in
April, having, as already stated, finished the composition of it
at the end of the preceding year. In writing down the
orchestration I made things particularly difficult for myself by
using the specially prepared paper which the printing process
renders necessary, and which involved me in all kinds of trying
formalities. I had each page transferred to the stone
immediately, and a hundred copies printed from each, hoping to
make use of these proofs for the rapid circulation of my work.
Whether my hopes were to be fulfilled or not, I was at all events
fifteen hundred marks out of pocket when all the expenses of the
publication were paid.

In regard to this work which called for so many sacrifices, and
which was so slow and difficult, more details will appear in my
autobiography. At all events, when May came round I was in
possession of a hundred neatly bound copies of my first new work
since the production of the Fliegender Hollander, and Hiller, to
whom I showed some parts of it, formed a tolerably good
impression of its value.

These plans for rapidly spreading the fame of my Tannhauser were
made with the hope of a success which, in view of my needy
circumstances, seemed ever more and more desirable. In the course
of one year since I had begun my own publication of my operas,
much had been done to this end. In September of the year 1844 I
had presented the King of Saxony with a special richly bound copy
of the complete pianoforte arrangement of Rienzi, dedicated to
his Majesty. The Fliegender Hollander had also been finished, and
the pianoforte arrangement of Rienzi for duet, as well as some
songs selected from both operas, had either been published or
were about to be published. Apart from this I had had twenty-five
copies made of the scores of both these operas by means of the
so-called autographic transfer process, although only from the
writing of the copyists. All these heavy expenses made it
absolutely imperative that I should try to send my scores to the
different theatres, and induce them to produce my operas, as the
outlay on the piano scores had been heavy, and these could only
have a sale if my works got to be known sufficiently well through
the theatre.

I now sent the score of my Rienzi to the more important theatres,
but they all returned my work to me, the Munich Court Theatre
even sending it back unopened! I therefore knew what to expect,
and spared myself the trouble of sending my Dutchman. From a
speculative business point of view the situation was this: the
hoped-for success of Tannhauser would bring in its wake a demand
for my earlier works. The worthy Meser, my agent, who was the
music publisher appointed to the court, had also begun to feel a
little doubtful, and saw that this was the only thing to do. I
started at once on the publication of a pianoforte arrangement of
Tannhauser, preparing it myself while Rockel undertook the
Fliegender Hollander, and a certain Klink did Rienzi.

The only thing that Meser was absolutely opposed to was the title
of my new opera, which I had just named Der Venusberg; he
maintained that, as I did not mix with the public, I had no idea
what horrible jokes were made about this title. He said the
students and professors of the medical school in Dresden would be
the first to make fun of it, as they had a predilection for that
kind of obscene joke. I was sufficiently disgusted by these
details to consent to the change. To the name of my hero,
Tannhauser, I added the name of the subject of the legend which,
although originally not belonging to the Tannhauser myth, was
thus associated with it by me, a fact which later on Simrock, the
great investigator and innovator in the world of legend, whom I
esteemed so highly, took very much amiss.

Tannhauser und der Sangerkrieg auf Wartburg should henceforth be
its title, and to give the work a mediaeval appearance I had the
words specially printed in Gothic characters upon the piano
arrangement, and in this way introduced the work to the public.

The extra expenses this involved were very heavy; but I went to
great pains to impress Meser with my belief in the success of my
work. So deeply were we involved in this scheme, and so great
were the sacrifices it had compelled us to make, that there was
nothing else for it but to trust to a special turn of Fortune's
wheel. As it happened, the management of the theatre shared my
confidence in the success of Tannhauser. I had induced Luttichau
to have the scenery for Tannhauser painted by the best painters
of the great opera house in Paris. I had seen their work on the
Dresden stage: it belonged to the style of German scenic art
which was then fashionable, and really gave the effect of first-
class work.

The order for this, as well as the necessary negotiations with
the Parisian painter, Desplechin, had already been settled in the
preceding autumn. The management agreed to all my wishes, even to
the ordering of beautiful costumes of mediaeval character
designed by my friend Heine. The only thing Luttichau constantly
postponed was the order for the Hall of Song on the Wartburg; he
maintained that the Hall for Kaiser Karl the Great in Oberon,
which had only recently been delivered by some French painters,
would answer the purpose just as well. With superhuman efforts I
had to convince my chief that we did not want a brilliant throne-
room, but a scenic picture of a certain character such as I saw
before my mind's eye, and that it could be painted only according
to my directions. As in the end I became very irritable and
cross, he soothed me by saying that he had no objection to having
this scene painted, and that he would order it to be commenced at
once, adding that he had not agreed immediately, only with the
view of making my joy the greater, because, what one obtained
without difficulty, one rarely appreciated. This Hall of Song was
fated to cause me great trouble later on.

Thus everything was in full swing; circumstances were favourable,
and seemed to cast a hopeful light upon the production of my new
work at the beginning of the autumn season. Even the public was
looking forward to it, and for the first time I saw my name
mentioned in a friendly manner in a communication to the
Allgemeine Zeitung. They actually spoke of the great expectations
they had of my new work, the poem of which had been written 'with
undoubted poetic feeling.'

Full of hope, I started in July on my holiday, which consisted of
a journey to Marienbad in Bohemia, where my wife and I intended
to take the cure. Again I found myself on the 'volcanic' soil of
this extraordinary country, Bohemia, which always had such an
inspiring effect on me. It was a marvellous summer, almost too
hot, and I was therefore in high spirits. I had intended to
follow the easy-going mode of life which is a necessary part of
this somewhat trying treatment, and had selected my books with
care, taking with me the poems of Wolfram von Eschenbach, edited
by Simrock and San Marte, as well as the anonymous epic
Lohengrin, with its lengthy introduction by Gorres. With my book
under my arm I hid myself in the neighbouring woods, and pitching
my tent by the brook in company with Titurel and Parcival, I lost
myself in Wolfram's strange, yet irresistibly charming, poem.
Soon, however, a longing seized me to give expression to the
inspiration generated by this poem, so that I had the greatest
difficulty in overcoming my desire to give up the rest I had been
prescribed while partaking of the water of Marienbad.

The result was an ever-increasing state of excitement. Lohengrin,
the first conception of which dates from the end of my time in
Paris, stood suddenly revealed before me, complete in every
detail of its dramatic construction. The legend of the swan which
forms such an important feature of all the many versions of this
series of myths that my studies had brought to my notice,
exercised a singular fascination over my imagination.

Remembering the doctor's advice, I struggled bravely against the
temptation of writing down my ideas, and resorted to the most
strange and energetic methods. Owing to some comments I had read
in Gervinus's History of German Literature, both the
Meistersinger von Nurnberg and Hans Sachs had acquired quite a
vital charm for me. The Marker alone, and the part he takes in
the Master-singing, were particularly pleasing to me, and on one
of my lonely walks, without knowing anything particular about
Hans Sachs and his poetic contemporaries, I thought out a
humorous scene, in which the cobbler--as a popular artisan-poet--
with the hammer on his last, gives the Marker a practical lesson
by making him sing, thereby taking revenge on him for his
conventional misdeeds. To me the force of the whole scene was
concentrated in the two following points: on the one hand the
Marker, with his slate covered with chalk-marks, and on the other
Hans Sachs holding up the shoes covered with his chalk-marks,
each intimating to the other that the singing had been a failure.
To this picture, by way of concluding the second act, I added a
scene consisting of a narrow, crooked little street in Nuremberg,
with the people all running about in great excitement, and
ultimately engaging in a street brawl. Thus, suddenly, the whole
of my Meistersinger comedy took shape so vividly before me, that,
inasmuch as it was a particularly cheerful subject, and not in
the least likely to over-excite my nerves, I felt I must write it
out in spite of the doctor's orders. I therefore proceeded to do
this, and hoped it might free me from the thrall of the idea of
Lohengrin; but I was mistaken; for no sooner had I got into my
bath at noon, than I felt an overpowering desire to write out
Lohengrin, and this longing so overcame me that I could not wait
the prescribed hour for the bath, but when a few minutes elapsed,
jumped out and, barely giving myself time to dress, ran home to
write out what I had in my mind. I repeated this for several days
until the complete sketch of Lohengrin was on paper.

The doctor then told me I had better give up taking the waters
and baths, saying emphatically that I was quite unfit for such
cures. My excitement had grown to such an extent that even my
efforts to sleep as a rule ended only in nocturnal adventures.
Among some interesting excursions that we made at this time, one
to Eger fascinated me particularly, on account of its association
with Wallenstein and of the peculiar costumes of the inhabitants.

In mid-August we travelled back to Dresden, where my friends were
glad to see me in such good spirits; as for myself, I felt as if
I had wings. In September, when all our singers had returned from
their summer holidays, I resumed the rehearsals of Tannhauser
with great earnestness. We had now got so far, at least with the
musical part of the performance, that the possible date of the
production seemed quite close at hand. Schroder-Devrient was one
of the first to realise the extraordinary difficulties which the
production of Tannhauser would entail. And, indeed, she saw these
difficulties so clearly that, to my great discomfiture, she was
able to lay them all before me. Once, when I called upon her, she
read the principal passages aloud with great feeling and force,
and then she asked me how I could have been so simple-minded as
to have thought that so childish a creature as Tichatschek would
be able to find the proper tones for Tannhauser. I tried to bring
her attention and my own to bear upon the nature of the music,
which was written so clearly in order to bring out the necessary
accent, that, in my opinion, the music actually spoke for him who
interpreted the passage, even if he were only a musical singer
and nothing more. She shook her head, saying that this would be
all right in the case of an oratorio.

She now sang Elizabeth's prayer from the piano score, and asked
me if I really thought that this music would answer my intentions
if sung by a young and pretty voice without any soul or without
that experience of life which alone could give the real
expression to the interpretation. I sighed and said that, in that
case, the youthfulness of the voice and of its owner must make up
for what was lacking: at the same time, I asked her as a favour
to see what she could do towards making my niece, Johanna,
understand her part. All this, however, did not solve the
Tannhauser problem, for any effort at teaching Tichatschek would
only have resulted in confusion. I was therefore obliged to rely
entirely upon the energy of his voice, and on the singer's
peculiarly sharp 'speaking' tone.

Devrient's anxiety about the principal parts arose partly out of
concern about her own. She did not know what to do with the part
of Venus; she had undertaken it for the sake of the success of
the performance, for although a small part, so much depended upon
its being ideally interpreted! Later on, when the work was given
in Paris, I became convinced that this part had been written in
too sketchy a style, and this induced me to reconstruct it by
making extensive additions, and by supplying all that which I
felt it lacked. For the moment, however, it looked as if no art
on the part of the singer could give to this sketch anything of
what it ought to represent. The only thing that might have helped
towards a satisfactory impersonation of Venus would have been the
artist's confidence in her own great physical attraction, and in
the effect it would help to produce by appealing to the purely
material sympathies of the public. The certainty that these means
were no longer at her disposal paralysed this great singer, who
could hide her age and matronly appearance no longer. She
therefore became self-conscious, and unable to use even the usual
means for gaining an effect. On one occasion, with a little smile
of despair, she expressed herself incapable of playing Venus, for
the very simple reason that she could not appear dressed like the
goddess. 'What on earth am I to wear as Venus?' she exclaimed.
'After all, I cannot be clad in a belt alone. A nice figure of
fun I should look, and you would laugh on the wrong side of your

On the whole, I still built my hopes upon the general effect of
the music alone, the great promise of which at the rehearsals
greatly encouraged me. Hiller, who had looked through the score
and had already praised it, assured me that the instrumentation
could not have been carried out with greater sobriety. The
characteristic and delicate sonority of the orchestra delighted
me, and strengthened me in my resolve to be extremely sparing in
the use of my orchestral material, in order to attain that
abundance of combinations which I needed for my later works.

At the rehearsal my wife alone missed the trumpets and trombones
that gave such brightness and freshness to Rienzi. Although I
laughed at this, I could not help feeling anxious when she
confided to me how great had been her disappointment when, at the
theatre rehearsal, she noticed the really feeble impression made
by the music of the Sangerkrieg. Speaking from the point of view
of the public, who always want to be amused or stirred in some
way or other, she had thus very rightly called attention to an
exceedingly questionable side of the performance. But I saw at
once that the fault lay less with the conception than with the
fact that I had not controlled the production with sufficient

In regard to the conception of this scene I was literally on the
horns of a dilemma, for I had to decide once for all whether this
Sangerkrieg was to be a concert of arias or a competition in
dramatic poetry. There are many people even nowadays, who, in
spite of having witnessed a perfectly successful production of
this scene, have not received the right impression of its
purport. Their idea is that it belongs to the traditional
operatic 'genre,' which demands that a number of vocal evolutions
shall be juxtaposed or contrasted, and that these different songs
are intended to amuse and interest the audience by means of their
purely musical changes in rhythm and time on the principle of a
concert programme, i.e. by various items of different styles.
This was not at all my idea: my real intention was, if possible,
to force the listener, for the first time in the history of
opera, to take an interest in a poetical idea, by making him
follow all its necessary developments. For it was only by virtue
of this interest that he could be made to understand the
catastrophe, which in this instance was not to be brought about
by any outside influence, but must be the outcome simply of the
natural spiritual processes at work. Hence the need of great
moderation and breadth in the conception of the music; first, in
order that according to my principle it might prove helpful
rather than the reverse to the understanding of the poetical
lines, and secondly, in order that the increasing rhythmic
character of the melody which marks the ardent growth of passion
may not be interrupted too arbitrarily by unnecessary changes in
modulation and rhythm. Hence, too, the need of a very sparing use
of orchestral instruments for the accompaniment, and an
intentional suppression of all those purely musical effects which
must be utilised, and that gradually, only when the situation
becomes so intense that one almost ceases to think, and can only
feel the tragic nature of the crisis. No one could deny that I
had contrived to produce the proper effect of this principle the
moment I played the Sangerkrieg on the piano. With the view of
ensuring all my future successes, I was now confronted with the
exceptional difficulty of making the opera singers understand how
to interpret their parts precisely in the way I desired. I
remembered how, through lack of experience, I had neglected
properly to superintend the production of the Fliegender
Hollander, and as I now fully realised all the disastrous
consequences of this neglect, I began to think of means by which
I could teach the singers my own interpretation. I have already
stated that it was impossible to influence Tichatschek, for if he
were made to do things he could not understand, he only became
nervous and confused. He was conscious of his advantages. He knew
that with his metallic voice he could sing with great musical
rhythm and accuracy, while his delivery was simply perfect. But,
to my great astonishment, I was soon to learn that all this did
not by any means suffice; for, to my horror, at the first
performance, that which had strangely escaped my notice in the
rehearsals became suddenly apparent to me. At the close of the
Sangerkrieg, when Tannhauser (in frantic excitement, and
forgetful of everybody present) has to sing his praise to Venus,
and I saw Tichatschek moving towards Elizabeth and addressing his
passionate outburst to her, I thought of Schroder-Devrient's
warning in very much the same way as Croesus must have thought
when he cried, 'O Solon! Solon!' at the funeral pyre. In spite of
the musical excellence of Tichatschek, the enormous life and
melodic charm of the Sangerkrieg failed entirely.

On the other hand, I succeeded in calling into life an entirely
new element such as probably had never been seen in opera! I had
watched the young baritone Mitterwurzer with great interest in
some of his parts--he was a strangely reticent man, and not at
all sociably inclined, and I had noticed that his delightfully
mellow voice possessed the rare quality of bringing out the inner
note of the soul. To him I entrusted Wolfram, and I had every
reason to be satisfied with his zeal and with the success of his
studies. Therefore, if I wished my intention and method to become
known, especially in regard to this difficult Sangerkrieg, I had
to rely on him for the proper execution of my plans and
everything they involved. I began by going through the opening
song of this scene with him; but, after I had done my utmost to
make him understand how I wanted it done, I was surprised to find
how very difficult this particular rendering of the music
appeared to him. He was absolutely incapable of repeating it
after me, and with each renewed effort his singing became so
commonplace and so mechanical that I realised clearly that he had
not understood this piece to be anything more than a phrase in
recitative form, which he might render with any inflections of
the voice that happened to be prescribed, or which might be sung
either this way or that, according to fancy, as was usual in
operatic pieces. He, too, was astonished at his own want of
capacity, but was so struck by the novelty and the justice of my
views, that he begged me not to try any more for the present, but
to leave him to find out for himself how best to become familiar
with this newly revealed world. During several rehearsals he only
sang in a whisper in order to get over the difficulty, but at the
last rehearsal he acquitted himself so admirably of his task, and
threw himself into it so heartily, that his work has remained to
this day as my most conclusive reason for believing that, in
spite of the unsatisfactory state of the world of opera to-day,
it is possible not only to find, but also properly to train, the
singer whom I should regard as indispensable for a correct
interpretation of my works. It was through the impression made by
Mitterwurzer that I ultimately succeeded in making the public
understand the whole of my work. This man, who had utterly
changed himself in bearing, look, and appearance in order to fit
himself to the role of Wolfram, had, in thus solving the problem,
not only become a thorough artist, but by his interpretation of
his part had also proved himself my saviour at the very moment
when my work was threatening to fail through the unsatisfactory
result of the first performance.

By his side the part of Elizabeth made a sweet impression. The
youthful appearance of my niece, her tall and slender form, the
decidedly German cast of her features, as well as the
incomparable beauty of her voice, with its expression of almost
childlike innocence, helped her to gain the hearts of the
audience, even though her talent was more theatrical than
dramatic. She soon rose to fame by her impersonation of this
part, and often in later years, when speaking about Tannhauser
performances in which she had appeared, people used to tell me
that its success had been entirely due to her. Strange to say, in
such reports people referred principally to the charm of her
acting at the moment when she received the guests in the Wartburg
Hall; and I used to account for this by remembering the untiring
efforts with which my talented brother and I had trained her to
perform this very part. And yet it was never possible to make her
understand the proper interpretation of the prayer in the third
act, and I felt inclined to say, 'O Solon! Solon!' as I had done
in the case of Tichatschek, when after the first performance I
was obliged to make a considerable cut in this solo, a proceeding
which greatly reduced its importance for ever afterwards. I heard
later that Johanna, who for a short period actually had the
reputation of being a great singer, had never succeeded in
singing the prayer as it ought to be sung, whereas a French
singer, Mademoiselle Marie Sax, achieved this in Paris to my
entire satisfaction.

In the beginning of October we had so far progressed with our
rehearsals that nothing stood in the way of an immediate
production of Tannhauser save the scenery, which was not yet
complete. A few only of the scenes ordered from Paris had
arrived, and even these had come very late. The Wartburg Valley
was beautifully effective and perfect in every detail. The inner
part of the Venusberg, however, gave me much anxiety: the painter
had not understood me; he had painted clusters of trees and
statues, which reminded one of Versailles, and had placed them
in a wild cave; he had evidently not known how to combine the
weird with the alluring. I had to insist on extensive
alterations, and chiefly on the painting out of the shrubs and
statues, all of which required time. The grotto had to lie half
hidden in a rosy cloud, through which the Wartburg Valley had to
loom in the distance; this was to be done in strict obedience to
my own ideas.

The greatest misfortune, however, was to befall me in the shape
of the tardy delivery of the scenery for the Hall of Song. This
was due to great negligence on the part of the Paris artists; and
we waited and waited until every detail of the opera had been
studied and studied again ad nauseam. Daily I went to the railway
station and examined all the packages and boxes that had arrived,
but there was no Hall of Song. At last I allowed myself to be
persuaded not to postpone the first performance any longer, and I
decided to use the Hall of Karl the Great out of Oberon,
originally suggested to me by Luttichau, instead of the real
thing. Considering the importance I attached to practical effect,
this entailed a great sacrifice of my personal feelings. And true
enough, when the curtain rose for the second act, the
reappearance of this throne-room, which the public had seen so
often, added considerably to the general disappointment of the
audience, who had anticipated astonishing surprises in this

On the 19th of October the first performance took place. In the
morning of that day a very beautiful young lady was introduced to
me by the leader Lipinsky. Her name was Mme. Ivalergis, and she
was a niece of the Russian Chancellor, Count von Nesselrode.
Liszt had spoken to her about me with such enthusiasm that she
had travelled all the way to Dresden especially to hear the first
production of my new work. I thought I was right in regarding
this flattering visit as a good omen. But although on this
occasion she turned away from me, somewhat perplexed and
disappointed by the very unintelligible performance and the
somewhat doubtful reception with which it met, I had sufficient
cause in after-years to know how deeply this remarkable and
energetic woman had nevertheless been impressed.

A great contrast to this visit was one I received from a peculiar
man called C. Gaillard. He was the editor of a Berlin musical
paper, which had only just started, and in which I had read with
great astonishment an entirely favourable and important criticism
of my Fliegender Hollander. Although necessity had compelled me
to remain indifferent to the attitude of the critics, yet this
particular notice gave me much pleasure, and I had invited my
unknown critic to come and hear the first production of
Tannhauser in Dresden.

This he did, and I was deeply touched to find that I had to deal
with a young man who, in spite of being threatened by
consumption, and being also exceedingly badly off, had come at my
invitation, simply from a sense of duty and honour, and not with
any mercenary motive. I saw from his knowledge and capacities
that he would never be able to attain a position of great
influence, but his kindness of heart and his extraordinarily
receptive mind filled me with a feeling of profound respect for
him. A few years later I was very sorry to hear that he had at
last succumbed to the terrible disease from which I knew him to
be suffering; for to the very end he remained faithful and
devoted to me, in spite of the most trying circumstances.

Meanwhile I had renewed my acquaintance with the friend I had won
through the production of the Fliegender Hollander in Berlin, and
who for a long time I had never had an opportunity of knowing
more thoroughly. The second time I met her was at Schroder-
Devrient's, with whom she was already on friendly terms, and of
whom she used to speak as 'one of my greatest conquests.'

She was already past her first youth, and had no beauty of
feature except remarkably penetrating and expressive eyes that
showed the greatness of soul with which she was gifted. She was
the sister of Frommann, the bookseller of Jena, and could relate
many intimate facts about Goethe, who had stayed at her brother's
house when he was in that town. She had held the position of
reader and companion to the Princess Augusta of Prussia, and had
thus become intimately acquainted with her, and was regarded by
her own association as almost a bosom friend and confidante of
that great lady. Nevertheless, she lived in extreme poverty, and
seemed proud of being able, by means of her talent as a painter
of arabesques, to secure for herself some sort of independence.
She always remained faithfully devoted to me, as she was one of
the few who were uninfluenced by the unfavourable impression
produced by the first performance of Tannhauser, and promptly
expressed her appreciation of my latest work with the greatest

With regard to the production itself the conclusions I drew from
it were as follows: the real faults in the work, which I have
already mentioned incidentally, lay in the sketchy and clumsy
portrayal of the part of Venus, and consequently of the whole of
the introductory scene of the first act. In consequence of this
defect the drama never even rose to the level of genuine warmth,
still less did it attain to the heights of passion which,
according to the poetic conception of the part, should so
strongly work upon the feelings of the audience as to prepare
them for the inevitable catastrophe in which the scene
culminates, and thus lead up to the tragic denouement. This great
scene was a complete failure, in spite of the fact that it was
entrusted to so great an actress as Schroder-Devrient, and a
singer so unusually gifted as Tichatschek. The genius of Devrient
might yet have struck the right note of passion in the scene had
she not chanced to be acting with a singer incapable of all
dramatic seriousness, and whose natural gifts only fitted him for
joyous or declamatory accents, and who was totally incapable of
expressing pain and suffering. It was not until Wolfram's
touching song and the closing scene of this act were reached that
the audience showed any signs of emotion. Tichatschek wrought
such a tremendous effect in the concluding phrase by the jubilant
music of his voice that, as I was afterwards informed, the end of
this first act left the audience in a great state of enthusiasm.
This was maintained, and even exceeded in the second act, during
which Elizabeth and Wolfram made a very sympathetic impression.
It was only the hero of Tannhauser who continued to lose ground,
and at last so completely failed to hold the audience that in the
final scene he almost broke down himself in dejection, as though
the failure of Tannhauser were his own. The fatal defect of his
performance lay in his inability to find the right expression for
the theme of the great Adagio passage of the finale beginning
with the words: 'To lead the sinner to salvation, the Heaven-sent
messenger drew near.' The importance of this passage I have
explained at length in my subsequent instructions for the
production of Tannhauser. Indeed, owing to Tichatschek's
absolutely expressionless rendering, which made it seem terribly
long and tedious, I had to omit it entirely from the second
performance. As I did not wish to offend so devoted and, in his
way, so deserving a man as Tichatschek, I let it be understood I
had come to the conclusion that this theme was a failure.
Moreover, as Tichatschek was thought to be an actor chosen by
myself to take the parts of the heroes in my works, this passage,
which was so immeasurably vital to the opera, continued to be
omitted in all the subsequent productions of Tannhauser, as
though this proceeding had been approved and demanded by me. I
therefore cherished no illusions about the value of the
subsequent universal success of this opera on the German stage.
My hero, who, in rapture as in woe, should always have asserted
his feelings with boundless energy, slunk away at the end of the
second act with the humble bearing of a penitent sinner, only to
reappear in the third with a demeanour designed to awaken the
charitable sympathy of the audience. His pronunciation of the
Pope's excommunication, however, was rendered with his usual full
rhetorical power, and it was refreshing to hear his voice
dominating the accompanying trombones. Granted that this radical
defect in the hero's acting had left the public in a doubtful and
unsatisfied state of suspense regarding the meaning of the whole,
yet the mistake in the execution of the final scene, arising from
my own inexperience in this new field of dramatic creation,
undoubtedly contributed to produce a chilling uncertainty as to
the true significance of the scenic action. In my first complete
version I had made Venus, on the occasion of her second attempt
to recall her faithless lover, appear in a vision to Tannhauser
when he is in a frenzy of madness, and the awfulness of the
situation, is merely suggested by a faint roseate glow upon the
distant Horselberg. Even the definite announcement of Elizabeth's
death was a sudden inspiration on the part of Wolfram. This idea
I intended to convey to the listening audience solely by the
sound of bells tolling in the distance, and by a faint gleam of
torches to attract their eyes to the remote Wartburg. Moreover,
there was a lack of precision and clearness in the appearance of
the chorus of young pilgrims, whose duty it was to announce the
miracle by their song alone. At that time I had given them no
budding staves to carry, and had unfortunately spoiled their
refrain by a tedious and unbroken monotony of accompaniment.

When at last the curtain fell, I was under the impression, not so
much from the behaviour of the audience, which was friendly, as
from my own inward conviction, that the failure of this work was
to be attributed to the immature and unsuitable material used in
its production. My depression was extreme, and a few friends who
were present after the piece, among them my dear sister Clara and
her husband, were equally affected. That very evening I decided
to remedy the defects of the first night before the second
performance. I was conscious of where the principal fault lay,
but hardly dared give expression to my conviction. At the
slightest attempt on my part to explain anything to Tichatschek I
had to abandon it, as I realised the impossibility of success, I
should only have made him so embarrassed and annoyed, that on one
pretext or another he would never have sung Tannhauser again. In
order to ensure the repetition of my opera, therefore, I took the
only course open to me by arrogating to myself all blame for the
failure. I could thus make considerable curtailments, whereby, of
course, the dramatic significance of the leading role was
considerably lessened; this, however, did not interfere with the
other parts of the opera, which had been favourably received.
Consequently, although inwardly very humiliated, I hoped to gain
some advantage for my work at the second performance, and was
particularly desirous that this should take place with as little
delay as possible. But Tichatschek was hoarse, and I had to
possess my soul in patience for fully a week.

I can hardly describe what I suffered during that time; it seemed
as if this delay would completely ruin my work. Every day that
elapsed between the first and second performance left the result
of the former more and more problematic, until at last it
appeared to be a generally acknowledged failure. While the public
as a whole expressed angry astonishment that, after the approval
they had shown of my Rienzi, I had paid no attention to their
taste in writing my new work, there were may kind and judicious
friends who were utterly perplexed at its inefficiency, the
principal parts of which they had been unable to understand, or
thought were imperfectly sketched and finished. The critics, with
unconcealed joy, attacked it as ravens attack carrion thrown out
to them. Even the passions and prejudices of the day were drawn
into the controversy in order, if possible, to confuse men's
minds, and prejudice them against me. It was just at the time
when the German-Catholic agitation, set in motion by Czersky and
Ronge as a highly meritorious and liberal movement, was causing a
great commotion. It was now made out that by Tannhauser I had
provoked a reactionary tendency, and that precisely as Meyerbeer
with his Huguenots had glorified Protestantism, so I with my
latest opera would glorify Catholicism.

The rumour that in writing Tannhauser I had been bribed by the
Catholic part was believed for a long time. While the effort was
being made to ruin my popularity by this means, I had the
questionable honour of being approached, first by letter,
afterwards in person, by a certain M. Rousseau, at that time
editor of the Prussian Staatszeitung, who wished for my
friendship and help. I knew of him only in connection with a
scathing criticism of my Fliegender Hollander. He informed me
that he had been sent from Austria to further the Catholic cause
in Berlin, but that he had had so many sad experiences of the
fruitlessness of his efforts, that he was now returning to Vienna
to continue his work in this direction undisturbed, with which
work I had, by my Tannhauser, proclaimed myself fully in accord.

That remarkable paper, the Dresdener Anzeiger, which was a local
organ for the redress of slander and scandal, daily published
some fresh bit of news to my prejudice. At last I noticed that
these attacks were met by witty and forcible little snubs, and
also that encouraging comments appeared in my favour, which for
some time surprised me very much, as I knew that only enemies and
never friends interested themselves in such cases. But I learned,
to my amusement, from Rockel, that he and my friend Heine had
carried out this inspiriting campaign on my behalf.

The ill-feeling against me in this quarter was only troublesome
because at that unfortunate period I was hindered from expressing
myself through my work. Tichatschek continued hoarse, and it was
said he would never sing in my opera again. I heard from
Luttichau that, scared by the failure of Tannhauser, he was
holding himself in readiness to countermand the order for the
promised scenery for the Hall of Song, or to cancel it
altogether. I was so terrified at the cowardice which was thus
revealed, that I myself began to look upon Tannhauser as doomed.
My prospects and my whole position, when viewed in this mood, may
be readily gathered from my communications, especially those
referring to my negotiations for the publication of my works.

This terrible week dragged out like an endless eternity. I was
afraid to look anybody in the face, but was one day obliged to go
to Meser's music shop, where I met Gottfried Semper just buying a
text-book of Tannhauser. Only a short time before I had been very
much put out in discussing this subject with him; he would listen
to nothing I had to say about the Minnesangers and Pilgrims of
the Middle Ages in connection with art, but gave me to understand
that he despised me for my choice of such material.

While Meser assured me that no inquiry whatever had been received
for the numbers of Tannhauser already published, it was strange
that my most energetic antagonist should be the only person who
had actually bought and paid for a copy. In a peculiarly earnest
and impressive manner he remarked to me that it was necessary to
be thoroughly acquainted with the subject if a just opinion was
to be passed on it, and that for this purpose, unfortunately,
nothing but the text was available. This very meeting with
Semper, strange as it may appear, was the first really
encouraging sign that I can remember.

But I found my greatest consolation in those days of trouble and
anxiety in Rockel, who from that time forward entered into a
lifelong intimacy with me. He had, without my being aware of it,
disputed, explained, quarrelled, and petitioned on my behalf, and
thereby roused himself to a veritable enthusiasm for Tannhauser.
The evening before the second performance, which was at last to
take place, we met over a glass of beer, and his bright demeanour
had such a cheering effect upon me that we became very lively.
After contemplating my head for some time, he swore that it was
impossible to destroy me, that there was a something in me,
something, probably, in my blood, as similar characteristics also
appeared in my brother Albert, who was otherwise so unlike me. To
speak more plainly, he called it the peculiar HEAT of my
temperament; this heat, he thought, might consume others, whereas
I appeared to feel at my best when it glowed most fiercely, for
he had several times seen me positively ablaze. I laughed, and
did not know what to make of his nonsense. Well, he said, I
should soon see what he meant in Tannhauser, for it was simply
absurd to think the work would not live; and he was absolutely
certain of its success. I thought over the matter on my way home,
and came to the conclusion that if Tannhauser did indeed win its
way, and become really popular, incalculable possibilities might
be attained.

At last the time arrived for our second performance. For this I
thought I had made due preparation by lessening the importance of
the principal part, and lowering my original ideals about some of
the more important portions, and I hoped by accentuating certain
undoubtedly attractive passages to secure a genuine appreciation
of the whole. I was greatly delighted with the scenery which had
at last arrived for the Hall of Song in the second act, the
beautiful and imposing effect of which cheered us all, for we
looked upon it as a good omen. Unfortunately I had to bear the
humiliation of seeing the theatre nearly empty. This, more than
anything else, sufficed to convince me what the opinion of the
public really was in regard to my work. But, if the audience was
scanty, the majority, at any rate, consisted of the first friends
of my art, and the reception of the piece was very cordial.
Mitterwurzer especially aroused the greatest enthusiasm. As for
Tichatschek, my anxious friends, Rockel and Heine, thought it
necessary to endeavour by every artifice to keep him in a good
humour for his part. In order to give practical assistance in
making the undoubted obscurity of the last scene clear, my
friends had asked several young people, more especially artists,
to give vent to torrents of applause at those parts which are not
generally regarded by the opera-going public as provoking any
demonstration. Strange to say, the outburst of applause thus
provoked after the words, 'An angel flies to God's throne for
thee, and will make his voice heard; Heinrich, thou art saved,'
made the entire situation suddenly clear to the public. At all
subsequent productions this continued to be the principal moment
for the expression of sympathy on the part of the audience,
although it had passed quite unnoticed on the first night. A few
days later a third performance took place, but this time before a
full house, Schroder-Devrient, depressed at the small share she
was able to take in the success of my work, watched the progress
of the opera from the small stage box; she informed me that
Luttichau had come to her with a beaming face, saying he thought
we had now carried Tannhauser happily through.

And this certainly proved to be the case; we often repeated it in
the course of the winter, but noticed that when two performances
followed close upon one another, there was not such a rush for
the second, from which we concluded that I had not yet gained the
approval of the great opera-going public, but only of the more
cultured section of the community. Among these real friends of
Tannhauser there were many, as I gradually discovered, who as a
rule never visited the theatre at all, and least of all the
opera. This interest on the part of a totally new public
continued to grow in intensity, and expressed itself in a
delightful and hitherto unknown manner by a strong sympathy for
the author. It was particularly painful to me, on Tichatschek's
account, to respond alone to the calls of the audience after
almost every act; however, I had at last to submit, as my refusal
would only have exposed the vocalist to fresh humiliations, for
when he appeared on the stage with his colleagues without me, the
loud shouts for me were almost insulting to him. With what
genuine eagerness did I wish that the contrary were the case, and
that the excellence of the execution might overshadow the author.
The conviction that I should never attain this with my Tannhauser
in Dresden guided me in all my future undertakings. But, at all
events, in producing Tannhauser in this city I had succeeded in
making at least the cultured public acquainted with my peculiar
tendencies, by stimulating their mental faculties and stripping
the performance of all realistic accessories. I did not, however,
succeed in making these tendencies sufficiently clear in a
dramatic performance, and in such an irresistible and convincing
manner as also to familiarise the uncultivated taste of the
ordinary public with them when they saw them embodied on the

By enlarging the circle of my acquaintances, and making
interesting friends, I had a good opportunity during the winter
of obtaining further information on this point in a way that was
both instructive and encouraging. My acquaintance and close
intimacy at this time with Dr. Hermann Franck of Breslau, who had
for some time been living quietly in Dresden, was also very
inspiring. He was very comfortably off, and was one of those men
who, by a wide knowledge and good judgment, combined with
considerable gifts as an author, won an excellent reputation for
himself in a large and select circle of private friends, without,
however, making any great name for himself with the public. He
endeavoured to use his knowledge and abilities for the general
good, and was induced by Brockhaus to edit the Deutsche
Allgemeine Zeitung when it first started. This paper had been
founded by Brockhaus some years earlier. However, after editing
it for a year, Franck resigned this post, and from that time
forward it was only on the very rarest occasions that he could be
persuaded to touch anything connected with journalism. His curt
and spirited remarks about his experiences in connection with the
Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung justified his disinclination to
engage in any work connected with the public press. My
appreciation was all the greater, therefore, when, without any
persuasion on my part, he wrote a full report on Tannhauser for
the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung. This appeared in October or
November, 1845, in a supplement to that paper, and although it
contained the first account of a work which has since been so
widely discussed, I regard it, after mature consideration, as the
most far-reaching and exhaustive that has ever been written. By
this means my name figured for the first time in the great
European political paper, whose columns, in consequence of a
remarkable change of front which was to the interests of the
proprietors, have since been open to any one who wished to make
merry at the expense of me or my work.

The point which particularly attracted me in Dr. Franck was the
delicate and tactful art he displayed in his criticism and his
methods of discussion. There was something distinguished about
them that was not so much the outcome of rank and social position
as of genuine world-wide culture.

The delicate coldness and reserve of his manner charmed rather
than repelled me, as it was a characteristic I had not met with
hitherto. When I found him expressing himself with some reserve
in regard to persons who enjoyed a reputation to which I did not
think they were always entitled, I was very pleased to see during
my intercourse with him that in many ways I exercised a decisive
influence over his opinion. Even at that time I did not care to
let it pass unchallenged when people evaded the close analysis of
the work of this or that celebrity, by referring in terms of
eulogy to his 'good-nature.' I even cornered my worldly wise
friend on this point, when a few years later I had the
satisfaction of getting from him a very concise explanation of
Meyerbeer's 'good-nature,' of which he had once spoken, and he
recalled with a smile the extraordinary questions I had put to
him at the time. He was, however, quite alarmed when I gave him a
very lucid explanation of the disinterestedness and conspicuous
altruism of Mendelssohn in the service of art, of which he had
spoken enthusiastically. In a conversation about Mendelssohn he
had remarked how delightful it was to find a man able to make
real sacrifices in order to free himself from a false position
that was of no service to art. It was assuredly a grand thing, he
said, to have renounced a good salary of nine thousand marks as
general musical conductor in Berlin, and to have retired to
Leipzig as a simple conductor at the Gewandhaus concerts, and
Mendelssohn was much to be admired on that account. Just at that
time I happened to be in a position to give some correct details
regarding this apparent sacrifice on the part of Mendelssohn,
because when I had made a serious proposal to our general
management about increasing the salaries of several of the poorer
members of the orchestra, Luttichau was requested to inform me
that, according to the King's latest commands, the expenditure on
the state bands was to be so restricted that for the present the
poorer chamber musicians could not claim any consideration, for
Herr von Falkenstein, the governor of the Leipzig district, who
was a passionate admirer of Mendelssohn's, had gone so far as to
influence the King to appoint the latter secret conductor, with a
secret salary of six thousand marks. This sum, together with the
salary of three thousand marks openly granted him by the
management of the Leipzig Gewandhaus, would amply compensate him
for the position he had renounced in Berlin, and he had
consequently consented to migrate to Leipzig. This large grant
had, for decency's sake, to be kept secret by the board
administering the band funds, not only because it was detrimental
to the interests of the institution, but also because it might
give offence to those who were acting as conductors at a lower
salary, if they knew another man had been appointed to a
sinecure. From these circumstances Mendelssohn derived not only
the advantage of having the grant kept a secret, but also the
satisfaction of allowing his friends to applaud him as a model of
self-sacrificing zeal for going to Leipzig; which they could
easily do, although they knew him to be in a good financial
position. When I explained this to Franck, he was astonished, and
admitted it was one of the strangest cases he had ever come
across in connection with undeserved fame.

We soon arrived at a mutual understanding in our views about many
other artistic celebrities with whom we came in contact at that
time in Dresden. This was a simple matter in the case of
Ferdinand Hiller, who was regarded as the chief of the 'good-
natured' ones. Regarding the more famous painters of the so-
called Dusseldorf School, whom I met frequently through the
medium of Tannhauser, it was not quite so easy to come to a
conclusion, as I was to a great extent influenced by the fame
attached to their well-known names; but here again Franck
startled me with opportune and conclusive reasons for
disappointment. When it was a question between Bendemann and
Hubner, it seemed to me that Hubner might very well be sacrificed
to Bendemann. The latter, who had only just completed the
frescoes for one of the reception-rooms at the royal palace, and
had been rewarded by his friends with a banquet, appeared to me
to have the right to be honoured as a great master. I was very
much astonished, therefore, when Franck calmly pitied the King of
Saxony for having had his room 'bedaubed' by Bendemann!
Nevertheless, there was no denying that these people were 'good-
natured.' My intercourse with them became more frequent, and at
all events offered me opportunities of mixing with the more
cultured artistic society, in distinction to the theatrical
circles with which I had usually associated; yet I never derived
from it the least enthusiasm or inspiration. The latter, however,
appears to have been Hiller's main object, and that winter he
organised a sort of social circle which held weekly meetings at
the home of one or the other of its members in turn. Reinecke,
who was both painter and poet, joined this society, together with
Hubner and Bendemann, and had the bad fortune to write the new
text for an opera for Hiller, the fate of which I will describe
later on. Robert Schumann, the musician, who was also in Dresden
at this time, and was busy working out on opera, which eventually
developed into Genovefa, made advances to Hiller and myself. I
had already known Schumann in Leipzig, and we had both entered
upon our musical careers at about the same time. I had also
occasionally sent small contributions to the Neue Zeitschrift fur
Musik, of which he had formerly been editor, and more recently a
longer one from Paris on Rossini's Stabat Mater. He had been
asked to conduct his Paradies und Peri at a concert to be given
at the theatre; but his peculiar awkwardness in conducting on
that occasion aroused my sympathy for the conscientious and
energetic musician whose work made so strong an appeal to me, and
a kindly and friendly confidence soon grew up between us. After a
performance of Tannhauser, at which he was present, he called on
me one morning and declared himself fully and decidedly in favour
of my work. The only objection he had to make was that the
stretta of the second finale was too abrupt, a criticism which
proved his keenness of perception; and I was able to show him, by
the score, how I had been compelled, much against my inclination,
to curtail the opera, and thereby create the position to which he
had taken exception. We often met when out walking and, as far as
it was possible with a person so sparing of words, we exchanged
views on matters of musical interest. He was looking forward to
the production, under my baton, of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, as
he had attended the performances at Leipzig, and had been very
much disappointed by Mendelssohn's conducting, which had quite
misunderstood the time of the first movement. Otherwise his
society did not inspire me particularly, and the fact that he was
too conservative to benefit by my views was soon shown, more
especially in his conception of the poem of Genovefa. It was
clear that my example had only made a very transient impression
on him, only just enough, in fact, to make him think it advisable
to write the text of an opera himself. He afterwards invited me
to hear him read his libretto, which was a combination of the
styles of Hebbel and Tieck. When, however, out of a genuine
desire for the success of his work, about which I had serious
misgivings, I called his attention to some grave defects in it,
and suggested the necessary alterations, I realised how matters
stood with this extraordinary person: he simply wanted me to be
swayed by himself, but deeply resented any interference with the
product of his own ideals, so that thenceforward I let matters

In the following winter, our circle, thanks to the assiduity of
Hiller, was considerably widened, and it now became a sort of
club whose object was to meet freely every week in a room at
Engel's restaurant at the Postplatz. Just about this time the
famous J. Schnorr of Munich was appointed director of the museums
in Dresden, and we entertained him at a banquet. I had already
seen some of his large and well-executed cartoons, which made a
deep impression on me, not only on account of their dimensions,
but also by reason of the events they depicted from old German
history, in which I was at that time particularly interested. It
was through Schnorr that I now became acquainted with the 'Munich
School' of which he was the master. My heart overflowed when I
thought what it meant for Dresden, if such giants of German art
were to shake hands there. I was much struck by Schnorr's
appearance and conversation, and I could not reconcile his
whining pedagogic manner with his mighty cartoons; however, I
thought it a great stroke of luck when he also took to
frequenting Engel's restaurant on Saturdays. He was well versed
in the old German legends, and I was delighted when they formed
the topic of conversation. The famous sculptor, Hanel, used also
to attend these meetings, and his marvellous talent inspired me
with the greatest respect, although I was not an authority on his
work, and could only judge of it by my own feelings. I soon saw
that his bearing and manner were affected; he was very fond of
expressing his opinion and judgment on questions of art, and I
was not in a position to decide whether they were reliable or
otherwise. In fact, it often occurred to me that I was listening
to a Philistine swaggerer. It was only when my old friend Pecht,
who had also settled in Dresden for a time, clearly and
emphatically explained to me Hanel's standing as an artist, that
I conquered all my secret doubts, and tried to find some pleasure
in his works. Rietschel, who was also a member of our society,
was the very antithesis of Hanel. I often found it difficult to
believe that the pale delicate man, with the whining nervous way
of expressing himself, was really a sculptor; but as similar
peculiarities in Schnorr did not prevent me from recognising him
as a marvellous painter, this helped me to make friends with
Rietschel, as he was quite free from affectation, and had a warm
sympathetic soul that drew me ever closer to him. I also remember
hearing from him a very enthusiastic appreciation of my
personality as a conductor. In spite, however, of being fellow-
members of our versatile art club, we never attained a footing of
real comradeship, for, after all, no one thought much of anybody
else's talents. For instance, Hiller had arranged some orchestral
concerts, and to commemorate them he was entertained at the usual
banquet by his friends, when his services were gratefully
acknowledged with due rhetorical pathos. Yet I never found, in my
private intercourse with Hiller's friends, the least enthusiasm
in regard to his work; on the contrary, I only noticed
expressions of doubt and apprehensive shrugs.

These feted concerts soon came to an end. At our social evenings
we never discussed the works of the masters who were present;
they were not even mentioned, and it was soon evident that none
of the members knew what to talk about. Semper was the only man
who, in his extraordinary fashion, often so enlivened our
entertainments that Rietschel, inwardly sympathetic, though
painfully startled, would heartily complain against the
unrestrained outbursts that led not infrequently to hot
discussions between Semper and myself. Strange to say, we two
always seemed to start from the hypothesis that we were
antagonists, for he insisted upon regarding me as the
representative of mediaeval Catholicism, which he often attacked
with real fury. I eventually succeeded in persuading him that my
studies and inclinations had always led me to German antiquity,
and to the discovery of ideals in the early Teutonic myths. When
we came to paganism, and I expressed my enthusiasm for the
genuine heathen legends, he became quite a different being, and a
deep and growing interest now began to unite us in such a way
that it quite isolated us from the rest of the company. It was,
however, impossible ever to settle anything without a heated
argument, not only because Semper had a peculiar habit of
contradicting everything flatly, but also because he knew his
views were opposed to those of the entire company. His
paradoxical assertions, which were apparently only intended to
stir up strife, soon made me realise, beyond any doubt, that he
was the only one present who was passionately in earnest about
everything he said, whereas all the others were quite content to
let the matter drop when convenient. A man of the latter type was
Gutzkow, who was often with us; he had been summoned to Dresden
by the general management of our court theatre, to act in the
capacity of dramatist and adapter of plays. Several of his pieces
had recently met with great success: Zopf und Schwert, Das Urbild
des Tartuffe, and Uriel Acosta, shed an unexpected lustre on the
latest dramatic repertoire, and it seemed as though the advent of
Gutzkow would inaugurate a new era of glory for the Dresden
theatre, where my operas had also been first produced. The good
intentions of the management were certainly undeniable. My only
regret on that occasion was that the hopes my old friend Laube
entertained of being summoned to Dresden to fill that post were
unrealised. He also had thrown himself enthusiastically into the
work of dramatic literature. Even in Paris I had noticed the
eagerness with which he used to study the technique of dramatic
composition, especially that of Scribe, in the hope of acquiring
the skill of that writer, without which, as he soon discovered,
no poetical drama in German could be successful. He maintained
that he had thoroughly mastered this style in his comedy, Rococo,
and he cherished the conviction that he could work up any
imaginable material into an effective stage play.

At the same time, he was very careful to show equal skill in the
selection of his material. In my opinion this theory of his was a
complete failure, as his only successful pieces were those in
which popular interest was excited by catch-phrases. This
interest was always more or less associated with the politics of
the day, and generally involved some obvious diatribes about
'German unity' and 'German Liberalism.' As this important
stimulus was first applied by way of experiment to the
subscribers to our Residenz Theater, and afterwards to the German
public generally, it had, as I have already said, to be worked
out with the consummate skill which, presumably, could only be
learned from modern French writers of comic opera.

I was very glad to see the result of this study in Laube's plays,
more especially as when he visited us in Dresden, which he often
did on the occasion of a new production, he admitted his
indebtedness with modest candour, and was far from pretending to
be a real poet. Moreover, he displayed great skill and an almost
fiery zeal, not only in the preparation of his pieces, but also
in their production, so that the offer of a post at Dresden, the
hope of which had been held out to him, would at least, from a
practical point of view, have been a benefit to the theatre.
Finally, however, the choice fell on his rival Gutzkow, in spite
of his obvious unsuitability for the practical work of dramatist.
It was evident that even as regards his successful plays his
triumph was mainly due to his literary skill, because these
effective plays were immediately followed by wearisome
productions which made us realise, to our astonishment, that he
himself could not have been aware of the skill he had previously
displayed. It was, however, precisely these abstract qualities of
the genuine man of letters which, in the eyes of many, cast over
him the halo of literary greatness; and when Luttichau, thinking
more of a showy reputation than of permanent benefit to his
theatre, decided to give the preference to Gutzkow, he thought
his choice would give a special impetus to the cause of higher
culture. To me the appointment of Gutzkow as the director of
dramatic art at the theatre was peculiarly objectionable, as it
was not long before I was convinced of his utter incompetence for
the task, and it was probably owing to the frankness with which I
expressed my opinion to Luttichau that our subsequent
estrangement was originally due. I had to complain bitterly of
the want of judgment and the levity of those who so recklessly
selected men to fill the posts of managers and conductors in such
precious institutions of art as the German royal theatres. To
obviate the failure I felt convinced must follow on this
important appointment, I made a special request that Gutzkow
should not be allowed to interfere in the management of the
opera; he readily yielded, and thus spared himself great
humiliation. This action, however, created a feeling of mistrust
between us, though I was quite ready to remove this as far as
possible by coming into personal contact with him whenever
opportunity offered on those evenings when the artists used to
gather at the club, as already described. I would gladly have
made this strange man, whose head was anxiously bowed down on his
breast, relax and unburden himself in his conversations with me,
but I was unsuccessful, on account of his constant reserve and
suspicion, and his studied aloofness. An opportunity arose for a
discussion between us when he wanted the orchestra to take a
melodramatic part (which they afterwards did) in a certain scene
of his Uriel Acosta, where the hero had to recant his alleged
heresy. The orchestra had to execute the soft tremolo for a given
time on certain chords, but when I heard the performance it
appeared to me absurd, and equally derogatory both for the music
and the drama.

On one of these evenings I tried to come to an understanding with
Gutzkow concerning this, and the employment of music generally as
a melodramatic auxiliary to the drama, and I discussed my views
on the subject in accordance with the highest principles I had
conceived. He met all the chief points of my discussion with a
nervous distrustful silence, but finally explained that I really
went too far in the significance which I claimed for music, and
that he failed to understand how music would be degraded if it
were applied more sparingly to the drama, seeing that the claims
of verse were often treated with much less respect when it was
used as a mere accessory to operatic music. To put it
practically, in fact, it would be advisable for the librettist
not to be too dainty in this matter; it wasn't possible always to
give the actor a brilliant exit; at the same time, however,
nothing could be more painful than when the chief performer made
his exit without any applause. In such cases a little distracting
noise in the orchestra really supplied a happy diversion. This I
actually heard Gutzkow say; moreover, I saw that he really meant
it! After this I felt I had done with him.

It was not long before I had equally little to do with all the
painters, musicians, and other zealots in art belonging to our
society. At the same time, however, I came into closer contact
with Berthold Auerbach. With great enthusiasm, Alwine Frommann
had already drawn my attention to Auerbach's Pastoral Stories.
The account she gave of these modest works (for that is how she
characterised them) sounded quite attractive. She said that they
had had the same refreshing effect on her circle of friends in
Berlin as that produced by opening the window of a scented
boudoir (to which she compared the literature they had hitherto
been used to), and letting in the fresh air of the woods. After
that I read the Pastoral Stories of the Black Forest, which had
so quickly become famous, and I, too, was strongly attracted by
the contents and tone of these realistic anecdotes about the life
of the people in a locality which it was easy enough to identify
from the vivid descriptions. As at this time Dresden seemed to be
becoming ever more and more the rendezvous for the lights of our
literary and artistic world, Auerbach also reconciled himself to
taking up his quarters in this city; and for quite a long time,
lived with his friend Hiller, who thus again had a celebrity at
his side of equal standing with himself. The short, sturdy Jewish
peasant boy, as he was placed to represent himself to be, made a
very agreeable impression. It was only later that I understood
the significance of his green jacket, and above all of his green
hunting-cap, which made him look exactly what the author of
Swabian Pastoral Stories ought to look like, and this
significance was anything but a naive one. The Swiss poet,
Gottfried Keller, once told me that, when Auerbach was in Zurich,
and he had decided on taking him up, he (Auerbach) had drawn his
attention to the best way in which to introduce one's literary
effusions to the public, and to make money, and he advised him,
above all things, to get a coat and cap like his own, for being,
as he said, like himself, neither handsome nor well grown, it
would be far better deliberately to make himself look rough and
queer; so saying, he placed his cap on his head in such a way as
to look a little rakish. For the time being, I perceived no real
affectation in Auerbach; he had assimilated so much of the tone
and ways of the people, and had done this so happily, that, in
any case, one could not help asking oneself why, with these
delightful qualities, he should move with such tremendous ease in
spheres that seemed absolutely antagonistic. At all events, he
always seemed in his true element even in those circles which
really seemed most opposed to his assumed character; there he
stood in his green coat, keen, sensitive, and natural, surrounded
by the distinguished society that flattered him; and he loved to
show letters he had received from the Grand Duke of Weimar and
his answers to them, all the time looking at things from the
standpoint of the Swabian peasant nature which suited him so

What especially attracted me to him was the fact that he was the
first Jew I ever met with whom one could discuss Judaism with
absolute freedom. He even seemed particularly desirous of
removing, in his agreeable manner, all prejudice on this score;
and it was really touching to hear him speak of his boyhood, and
declare that he was perhaps the only German who had read
Klopstock's Messiah all through. Having one day become absorbed
in this work, which he read secretly in his cottage home, he had
played the truant from school, and when he finally arrived too
late at the school-house, his teacher angrily exclaimed: 'You
confounded Jew-boy, where have you been? Lending money again?'
Such experiences had only made him feel pensive and melancholy,
but not bitter, and he had even been inspired with real
compassion for the coarseness of his tormentors. These were
traits in his character which drew me very strongly to him. As
time went on, however, it seemed to me a serious matter that he
could not get away from the atmosphere of these ideas, for I
began to feel that the universe contained no other problem for
him than the elucidation of the Jewish question. One day,
therefore, I protested as good-naturedly and confidentially as I
could, and advised him to let the whole problem of Judaism drop,
as there were, after all, many other standpoints from which the
world might be criticised. Strange to say, he thereupon not only
lost his ingeniousness, but also fell to whining in an ecstatic
fashion, which did not seem to me very genuine, and assured me
that that would be an impossibility for him, as there was still
so much in Judaism which needed his whole sympathy. I could not
help recalling the surprising anguish which he had manifested on
this occasion, when I learned, in the course of time, that he had
repeatedly arranged Jewish marriages, concerning the happy result
of which I heard nothing, save that he had, by this means, made
quite a fortune. When, several years afterwards, I again saw him
in Zurich, I observed that his appearance had unfortunately
changed in a manner quite disconcerting: he looked really
extraordinarily common and dirty; his former refreshing
liveliness had turned into the usual Jewish restlessness, and it
was easy to see that all he said was uttered as if he regretted
that his words could not be turned to better account in a
newspaper article.

During his time in Dresden, however, Auerbach's warm agreement
with my artistic projects really did me good, even though it may
have been only from his Semitic and Swabian standpoint; so did
the novelty of the experience I was at that time undergoing as an
artist, in meeting with ever-increasing regard and recognition
among people of note, of acknowledged importance and of
exceptional culture. If, after the success obtained by Rienzi, I
still remained with the circle of the real theatrical world, the
greater success following on Tannhauser certainly brought me into
contact with such people as I have mentioned above, who, tho